Harvey may be among the world's most costly recent catastrophes

Risk modeler estimates up to $90 billion in losses

Sep 1, 2017 @ 3:09 pm

By Bloomberg News

As Tropical Depression Harvey winds down, its full economic impact is still unclear. Risk-modeling company RMS estimates $70 billion to $90 billion in losses from wind, storm surge and flood damage, most of it in the Houston metropolitan area. That would make the storm among the world's most costly catastrophes since at least 1970.

And this is happening in what was considered a few short weeks ago as a fairly tame weather year. According to Swiss Re, total economic losses from disasters were $44 billion in the first half of 2017, down 62 percent from the first half in 2016. The biggest losses were from thunderstorms, and more than half of the $44 billion was insured. Although forecasters are reluctant to estimate how much of Harvey's damage insurers might pay, Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research, puts the figure at about 27 percent, far less than the 47 percent paid out for Hurricane Katrina.

Costliest insured losses
RankEventInsured loss ($B)VictimsDate (start)Country/region
1Hurricane Katrina; storm surge, damage to oil rigs80.71,836Aug. 25, 2005U.S., Gulf of Mexico
2Earthquake (Mw 9.0) triggers tsunami; aftershocks37.319,135March 11, 2011Japan
3Hurricane Sandy; storm surge30.1237Oct. 24, 2012U.S., Caribbean, Canada
4Hurricane Andrew; floods27.443Aug. 23, 1992U.S., Bahamas
5Terror attack on WTC, Pentagon and other buildings25.52,982Sept. 11, 2001U.S.
6Northridge Earthquake (Mw 6.7)24.861Jan. 17, 1994U.S.
7Hurricane Ike; floods, damaged to oil rigs22.6136Sept. 6, 2008U.S., Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico
8Earthquake (6.1) aftershocks17.1815Feb. 22, 2011New Zealand
9Hurricane Ivan; damage to oil rigs16.4181Sept. 2, 2004U.S., Caribbean, Venezuela
10Heavy monsoon rains, extreme flooding16.0124July 27, 2011Thailand
11Hurricane Wilma; torrential rains, flooding15.435Oct. 19, 2005U.S., Mexico, Caribbean
12Winter Storm Vivian14.564Feb. 25, 1990Switzerland, Germany
13Hurricane Rita; floods, damage to oil rigs13.234Sept. 20, 2005U.S., Gulf of Mexico
14Drought in the Corn Belt11.5123July 15, 2012U.S.
15Hurricane Charley10.024Aug. 11, 2004U.S., Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico
Sources: Swiss Re Institute, *The National Flood Insurance Program/FEMA and Cat Perils
Methodology: Costliest insured losses—Bloomberg ranked the costliest catastrophes from 1970 to 2017 based on insured losses, which are shown in 2016 dollars. Loss includes property and business interruption, excluding liability and life insurance losses. Victims include dead and missing. Mw refers to Moment Magnitude, which is based on seismic moment and is used to measure the size of large earthquakes. Costliest floods in the U.S.—Floods are ranked according to estimated economic losses, which are adjusted for GDP growth and shown in 2016 dollars. Ranking reflects the period of 1978 through 2016. Figures are for water damage only; wind damage is excluded.

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