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by : Alpha Insurance Anlaysts

According to catastrophe modelling agency AIR, Winter storm Klaus, which we reported on 28/1/2009, could cost insurers between €350 million and €700 million.

The storm made landfall early on Saturday morning in south-western France and travelled east through southern France before exiting south to the Mediterranean coast less than twelve hours later. Klaus brought locally fierce winds in excess of 150 km/h (similar to a strong Category 1 hurricane) and torrential rains, causing building damage, flooding, as well as power cuts and travel disruptions across south-western France and parts of northern Spain.

Klaus was the most intense and damaging storm to affect the region since Martin in December of 1999, which caused an estimated €2.5 billion of insured losses in France at the time. AIR has deployed two post-disaster survey teams, which have already begun to gather damage information in the affected regions in southern France. One team is surveying Bordeaux and the surrounding areas to the south and east. A second team is surveying Toulouse and areas to the east. Initial observations indicate damage levels as expected for this type of event.

Klaus caused significant damage to electrical and telecommunications lines, and hundreds of thousands of homes remain without service in France. Very large claims from utility companies are possible. Business interruption losses may be considerable depending on how long it takes for power to be restored.

France’s lumber industry was particularly hard hit by Klaus. French forestry groups reported that Klaus felled 60% to 70% of pine trees in parts of the southwest. The forests in this area, mostly privately owned, account for about a third of the country’s lumber production, but only a small percentage is insured against storm damage.