sigma 1/2016: Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2015 - Asia suffers substantial losses

Total economic losses from natural and man-made disasters were USD 92 billion in 2015, the latest sigma report says, down from USD 113 billion in 2014. Global insured losses were USD 37 billion in 2015, well below the inflation-adjusted previous 10-year average of USD 62 billion.

Asia experienced the highest level of losses for a third year running. Total economic losses from all catastrophe events in Asia were close to USD 38 billion. The earthquake in Nepal was the biggest disaster of the year globally, killing close to 9000 people, the largest loss of life in a single event. Total losses from the quake are estimated at USD 6 billion, which includes damage reported in India, China and Bangladesh. In light of the earthquake in Nepal last year, this sigma includes an assessment of the risk exposure for Delhi, the capital city in neighbouring India, from earthquakes in the Himalayan region. Other events causing high losses in Asia included Typhoon Goni in Japan, flooding in southern India and the explosions in Tianjin.

It was a harsh winter in the US last year and snowstorms there resulted in significant losses. Overall, however, 2015 was the hottest year on record. Heatwaves claimed a number of lives all over the world, while long stretches of high temperatures and lack of rainfall caused drought and wildfires in many regions. The US had its worst year for wildfires since 1960 because of the hot, dry conditions. Other countries impacted by wildfires include Indonesia and Australia. In contrast, other regions such as India and the UK experienced extreme precipitation events. In India, the city of Chennai was paralysed by flooding after accumulated rainfall of more than 500 mm in November alone. This was followed by large swathes of central and northern UK being under water in December due to multiple rainstorms. Preliminary estimates put the insured losses from the UK floods at around USD 2 billion. Heavy rains and flooding also struck in several states in the US.

Of the global insured losses, USD 28 billion were attributed to natural catastrophes. However, the biggest insured loss event of the year – an estimated property loss of between USD 2.5 billion and USD 3.5 billion – were the two large explosions at the Port of Tianjin in China in August. This sigma includes a special chapter on the Tianjin experience, which has put a spotlight on accumulation risk in large transportation hubs such as ports. The severity of the blasts and large asset exposures at the time mean that Tianjin is the biggest man-made insurance loss event ever recorded in Asia, and also one of the biggest man-made insurance loss events worldwide, ever.

The sigma also includes a feature on how aerial and digital technologies, including social media, can be used in disaster risk management. You can access the full report and other material on the dedicated sigma page.

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