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Storm aid comes as losses mount [Fairfield County Business Journal]

By Gallagher, Patrick
Proquest LLC

Hurricane Sandy accounted for nearly one-third of all worldwide disaster losses in 2012 and 57 percent of all insured losses, according to a new report.

The so-called superstorm caused an estimated $50 billion in damage and $25 billion in insured losses, according to a Jan. 3 report by Munich Reinsurance America Inc., the U.S. affiliate of Munich Re.

In comparison, Irene, which began as a hurricane and was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached the Northeast, caused about $15 billion in losses, with slightly less than half insured, according to Munich Re.

Despite the destruction wrought by Sandy, worldwide disaster losses were significantly lower in 2012 than the previous year.

In 2011, natural catastrophes were blamed for total losses and insured losses of roughly $380 billion and $105 billion, respectively - both records - with the bulk of the losses attributed to devastating earthquakes that struck Japan and New Zealand.

This past year, worldwide disaster-related losses were estimated at $160 billion, with about 40 percent of that insured, according to the Munich Re report.

Among area insurance providers, The Hartford Financial Services Group said it expected Hurricane Sandy to cost it $370 million in total claims before accounting for tax and reinsurance.

About 60 percent of the company's losses are in The Hartford's commercial segment, which includes property-casualty insurance for businesses, with the remaining 40 percent coming in the company's consumer markets business.

The Hartford said in a December statement that net catastrophe losses through Nov. 30, 2012 were estimated at $230 million, after tax.

Travelers Cos., an insurance company headquartered in New York City with corporate offices in Hartford, estimated losses stemming from Hurricane Sandy at about $1.14 billion before tax and reinsurance.

After accounting for taxes and estimated recoveries from reinsurance, Travelers estimated losses of about $650 million.

Both Travelers and The Hartford noted that the estimates were preliminary in nature.

Other providers of home and automobile policies, including Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., said it would detail Hurricane Sandy-related claims and any expected losses in fourth quarter financial reports, to be released later in January or early February.

A Munich Re board member, Torsten Jeworrek, noted that the losses related to Hurricane Sandy could have been lessened with better preparation.

"It would certainly be possible to protect (areas) like New York better from the effects of storm surges," Jeworrek said in a press release. "Such action would make economic sense and insurers could also reflect the reduced exposure in their pricing."

Slowly but surely, disaster aid is en route to Connecticut and the tristate region after Congress passed a $9.7 billion package Jan. 4 to bolster the National Flood Insurance Program.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said last week that $28 million in disaster assistance had been approved for Connecticut residents and businesses through Jan. 7, including $17.7 million in low-interest loans approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration for businesses, homeowners and renters.

However, Malloy was critical of the delays in Congress, where the U.S. House of Representatives did not vote on a larger, $60 billion funding bill prior to the end of the 112th Congress, with House Republican leadership instead saying that votes on the funding would be held in two parts Jan. 4 and Jan. 15.

"House Republican leadership missed a real opportunity to accelerate recovery and mitigate future damage when the 112th Congress adjourned without considering the Senate-passed bill," Malloy said in a prepared statement.

Copyright:(c) 2013 Westfair Communications
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