Sunday 17 December, 2017

Hurricane Maria incurs insured losses of $40 to $80 billion

Catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide estimates industry insured losses for Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean will be between US$40 billion and US$85 billion.

Puerto Rico alone accounts for more than 85 percent of the loss.

In a release, AIR said Hurricane Maria was another major catastrophe for the central Caribbean region, compounding the damage done by Hurricane Irma just two weeks ago. It spared a few islands devastated by Irma, but brought additional destruction to others, and wrecked some locations that had escaped Irma’s wrath.

Hurricane Maria slammed into Dominica on Tuesday, September 19 as a Category 5 storm, devastating the island and triggering widespread flooding in adjacent Guadeloupe. It weakened briefly to a Category 4, then intensified again to Category 5 as it cut west-northwest over the warm waters of the northeastern Caribbean Sea. The eyewall brushed the western edge of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands on Tuesday night, bringing storm surge and large waves to southern shores.

Maria was downgraded slightly to Category 4 before it made landfall on Puerto Rico near the town of Yabucoa at 6:15 a.m. ET, Wednesday, September 20 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. This was Puerto Rico’s first direct landfall from a Category 4 tropical cyclone since the notorious San Ciprian hurricane in 1932.

Maria lost some organisation as it interacted with Puerto Rico’s mountains but brought a storm surge anticipated to be 6 to 9 feet in some areas and inundated the country with 12 to 18 inches of rain, with higher amounts in some locations. Maintaining its track, it then passed close offshore of the northeast coast of Hispaniola delivering heavy precipitation, Category 3 winds, and storm surge to the northern Dominican Republic.

AIR said islands in the Caribbean devastated by the storm, and by Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier are in the early stages of what will inevitably be a very lengthy recovery period. 

"It is abundantly clear that this has been a major catastrophe for the region. More than three million people in Puerto Rico, for example, remain without electricity, drinking water, and gas; other essentials are in short supply. Communications are challenging, with 95 percent of cell phone towers reportedly toppled. Many towns have been cut off by landslides, floods, or torrents of muddy water; widespread damage is reported," AIR said.