Swiss Re estimates its claims burden from Tropical Cyclone Debbie in Australia at approximately USD 350 million, net of retrocession and before tax. Swiss Re expects Cyclone Debbie to have resulted in a higher share of large commercial and corporate losses compared to similar events in the past. The total insured market losses for wind, flood and storm surge damages are estimated to be approximately USD 1.3 billion.
Tropical Cyclone Debbie made landfall on 28 March 2017 as a category 4 hurricane; making it the strongest cyclone to hit the Australian region since 2015. The eye of the storm came ashore near Airlie Beach on the north Queensland coast, with estimated 10-minute sustained winds of close to 200km/h. The main disaster zone stretched more than 990 km from the point of landfall, reaching northern New South Wales. Within New South Wales, both Central and South Lismore are protected by levees, but in both cases the levees were overtopped, contributing to significant damage.
"This destructive cyclone caused structural damage by flooding, storm surge and wind in regions close to the Queensland coast," says Matthias Weber, Swiss Re's Group Chief Underwriting Officer. "We are a lead reinsurer in this market and estimate that Cyclone Debbie has caused higher commercial and corporate losses compared to similar events in the past. We express our sympathies to those affected and will continue to work closely with our partners and clients to ensure that people receive the financial support they need to clean up and rebuild after this tragic event."
High winds triggered a storm surge and contributed to surface water flooding from large amounts of accumulated rainfall. A peak storm surge of 2.7 meters was measured at Laguna Quays, on the coast of Queensland. Hundreds of residential and commercial buildings were flooded; several thousand residents and business operators were evacuated from the region. The Queensland Farmers' Federation estimates winter crop losses at 20%.