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Northern Hemisphere storm losses could reach $4 billion

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Harsh winter weather for the northern half of the globe may have cost the worldwide economy up to $4 billon in economic losses, according to a report released Tuesday by Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield Group Ltd.'s catastrophe model development team.

Impact Forecasting's Global Catastrophe Recap for January 2016 says winter weather events in the U.S and Far East each cost the economy almost $2 billion.

A powerful winter storm that brought record snowfall, high winds, coastal flooding, freezing rain, ice, sleet and severe thunderstorms to the eastern United States Jan. 21-24, causing 58 fatalities and dozens of injuries, produced total economic losses tentatively estimated to exceed $2.0 billion, while insured losses both from private and public entities were projected to reach well into the hundreds of millions, according to the report.

“States of emergency were declared in 11 states and Washington, D.C., as the event was rated the fourth-largest winter storm in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic since the 1950s by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” said the report.

On the other side of the globe, a prolonged period of Arctic cold and snowfall Jan. 20-26 covered much of East Asia, causing significant damage, hampering travel and killing at least 116 people in Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and China.

Impact Forecasting estimates the total combined economic losses from the event at nearly $2.0 billion, with China shouldering the bulk of the cost at some $1.6 billion, said the report.

“Winter in the Northern Hemisphere was on full display to begin 2016, with several winter storm events impacting parts of the United States, Asia and Europe,” Adam Podlaha, head of Impact Forecasting, said in a statement accompanying the report.

Impact Forecasting also noted several other January natural hazard events in its report, including:

• Windstorm Marita, which hit areas of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scandinavia. Economic and insured losses are expected to exceed $100 million.

• A series of Pacific storm systems fueled by El Niño, which brought heavy rainfall, snow and isolated severe weather to portions of California in early January. Total economic losses are estimated to exceed $125 million, and public and private insurers listed payouts in excess of $65 million.

• Heavy rains affecting parts of Brazil and Ecuador, which killed at least 12 people and destroyed more than 15,000 homes. Total combined economic losses were estimated in excess of $110 million.

• A magnitude-6.7 earthquake in northeast India on Jan. 3, which killed at least 22 people and injured around 300 others. Total economic losses are estimated to exceed $75 million.

• The Waroona Fire in western Australia, which killed at least two people and destroyed 180 structures in the hardest-hit communities of Yarloop, Waroona, Hamel and Cookenup. The Insurance Council of Australia cited insured losses of $42 million.

• Drought conditions in South Africa, which caused agricultural damage of around 4.0 billion South Africa rand ($250 million).