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Major losses as big freeze hits Europe

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Arctic conditions and storms across Europe caused significant insured losses, according to the latest monthly catastrophe report from Impact Forecasting.

Some countries experienced their coldest temperatures in decades last month, while others – including the UK – reported unusually heavy snow.

Thousands of flights were cancelled or delayed and there were forced closures across many different business sectors. At least 88 people died.

“The total financial cost, including business interruption, was expected to minimally reach well into the hundreds of millions [US dollars] – though very likely to be higher, with a high volume of filed insurance claims reported,” the report says.

Elsewhere, a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on February 26, killing at least 75 people and injuring more than 500.

Thousands of homes and other buildings were destroyed and a state of emergency was declared for the hardest-hit provinces. The Government allocated $US140 million ($179 million) for initial recovery efforts, but the final cost is expected to be higher.

Cyclone Gita struck island nations in the South Pacific Ocean, causing significant damage in parts of Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, New Caledonia and New Zealand.

Damage to infrastructure and public structures alone was estimated at $US50 million ($64 million).

Torrential rainfall and severe thunderstorms led to widespread damage across the central and eastern US, killing at least 15 people. Total economic damage was expected to exceed $US200 million ($256 million).

Impact Forecasting Meteorologist Steve Bowen says nearly every major continent recorded noteworthy natural disasters last month.

“While financial costs from large-scale weather events in Europe and the US are likely to be easily absorbed by local governments and the insurance industry, the impact to less affluent regions is expected to pose a greater challenge for recovery.

“The scale of damage… from Cyclone Gita and the major earthquake in Papua New Guinea highlight the continued need to ensure insurance programs or risk mitigation solutions are in place to help expedite the short and long-term recovery processes.”