2015’s biggest insured disasters

An aerial picture shows smoke rising from the debris among shipping containers at the site of Wednesday night's explosions at Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, August 15, 2015. China on Friday defended fire fighters who initially hosed water on a blaze in a warehouse storing volatile chemicals, a response foreign experts said could have contributed to two huge blasts that killed 56 people. REUTERS/Stringer

The global insurance industry got off easy in 2015, sort of. While the $37 million in insured losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters was well under the 10-year average of $62 billion, the year saw a record 353 events, according to a report by giant reinsurer Swiss Re.

The year’s biggest insured loss came after two explosions rocked the Chinese port of Tianjin, causing between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion in damages. Many vehicles were destroyed by the blast because Tianjin is where automakers ship cars to be sold in the Chinese market. That disaster was the biggest man-made insurance loss ever in Asia and is one of the largest-ever of its kind.

Following Tianjin in Swiss Re’s 2015 insured loss rankings was a February winter storm in the U.S. that pummeled 17 states, causing $2.1 billion to $3 billion in losses, mainly property damage such as burst water pipes. Thunderstorms in May caused flooding in Texas that generated $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion in losses. April rains in the U.S. cost insurers $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion. And September’s Valley Fire in California, which burned more than 76,000 acres, ranked fifth, generating $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion in claims.

Experts say 2015 was the worst year for wildfires since 1960 and warn that drought conditions persist in parts of the U.S. West this year.

Measured by human deaths, the earthquake that struck Nepal in April was the year’s worst catastrophe, killing 9,000 people. Said Swiss Re Chief Economist Kurt Karl: “The earthquake in Nepal struck close to the capital Kathmandu, causing widespread devastation and losses, which were mostly uninsured. Yet again, tragedy has hit an areas where people are least able to protect themselves.”

According to Swiss Re, 2015 marked the 10th straight year the U.S. avoided having a major hurricane make landfall. A typical season has 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, and three of which are classified as “major.” The El Nino weather pattern, caused by warmer-than-usual Pacific water temperatures, helped keep the Atlantic hurricane count benign, at just four.

Experts advise people not to be lulled into complacency by terms like “benign,” noting that storms like 2012’s Sandy packed quite a wallop even though technically it wasn’t “major.” Hurricane Andrew was one of just seven hurricanes in the below-average 1992 season. Unfortunately, it was the most destructive in U.S. history, causing nearly $27 billion in damages. To read more click here.

The 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference will be held at Jupiters Gold Coast, QLD on the 30-31 May 2016. The Conference theme ‘EARTH, FIRE and RAIN’ will continue to examine issues that impact preparedness, resilience, response and capability.

To register for the conference CLICK HERE. Early Bird Registrations Close: Monday 18 April 2016 so be quick to receive a discounted rate.