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Multiple catastrophes make for costliest April insured losses in 5 years

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With the combination of earthquakes, storms, and floods, last month is shaping up to the worst April for natural disaster insured losses in five years, Aon Benfield Group Ltd. said Monday.

Impact Forecasting, the company's catastrophe model development team, said last month's events include two major earthquakes in southern Japan, an earthquake in Ecuador, and severe storms in the United States.

“The global footprint of natural disaster losses in April was significant,” Steve Bowen, Chicago-based director at Impact Forecasting, said in a statement. “Between major events such as the Kumamoto earthquake, the severe convective storms and flooding in the United States, and flooded agriculture in Argentina, economic and insured losses are poised to make this the costliest April since 2011.”

The General Insurance Association of Japan reported that nearly 70,000 nonlife claims had been filed and that total insured losses were expected to breach $2 billion. The quakes killed at least 66 people and injured more than 4,000.

The earthquake that struck Ecuador's northwest coast on April 16 killed at least 660 people and injured more than 17,638 others. Given low insurance penetration levels, Aon Benfield said, the insured loss was set to be a fraction of the overall financial cost, which was put at roughly $3 billion.

In addition, five outbreaks of severe convective storms in the U.S. caused total aggregated economic losses that are estimated to exceed $4 billion and insurance losses beyond $3 billion. Major flash flooding in the greater Houston area resulted in total economic losses that are expected to exceed $1 billion, Aon Benfield said.

“The large differential between the economic and insured losses is yet another reminder of how much opportunity exists for the insurance industry to help engage with governments, communities and businesses around the world to provide the risk expertise that can help mitigate the effects of natural disasters," Mr. Bowen said.