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European floods leave insurance industry facing huge losses

21 July 2021

The insurance and reinsurance industry faces heavy losses from the European floods with an initial insurance estimate from analysts at Berenberg, the Hamburg based investment bank, of Euros 2.6 billion (US $3 billion).

The Berenberg analyst team wrote: “The European floods are estimated to have cost the reinsurance industry several billions of dollars; we estimate between $2bn-3bn.

“The companies we believe are most exposed to European flood events are likely to be Ageas, Allianz, AXA, Baloise, Generali, Helvetia, Talanz and Zurich.”

The floods have killed more than 180 people in several countries including Germany, Belgium. Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Crucially, the impact in Germany is expected to be most severe with only 45 percent of German homeowners purchasing natural catastrophe insurance, according to figures from Swiss Re.

This figure is a direct result of citizens assuming that state aid will be made available after extreme weather events according to industry experts. The German government is set to propose an immediate aid package of at least €300mn as it begins the process of recovery from the disaster.

While Central Europe suffered deadly floods, Northern Europe has been hit by an extended heatwave. The record-breaking heatwave in parts of the US and Canada at the end of June has also focussed attention on climate change and the impact it is having on weather patterns around the globe.

Dr Omar Baddour, the head of World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Climate Monitoring and Policy Division said: "Whilst rapid attribution studies have shown the clear link between human-induced climate change for the unprecedented heatwave episodes recorded in the Western United States and Canada, weather patterns over the whole northern Hemisphere have shown an unusual planetary wavy pattern this summer.

“This has brought unprecedented heat, droughts, cold and wet conditions in various places. The connection of this large-scale disturbance of summer season with the warming of Arctic and the heat accumulation in the ocean needs to be investigated.”

Flooding has been moving up the risk agenda in recent years, with a recent report from Swiss Re pointing to flood risk in Europe as being the main secondary peril for the past decade. Globally, flooding represents 16 percent of all secondary peril insured losses from 2011-2020, according to Sigma estimates.

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