2017 has been flagged as the costliest year on record for natural disasters, according to international insurer Aon Benfield's latest Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Insight Report.
The global economic cost of natural disasters in 2017 clocked in at a staggering US$353bn, while the insured cost was US$134bn, Aon Benfield said in a statement.
"It would also be remiss to believe that South Africa is not affected by its ample share of natural catastrophes. The Knysna fires in June 2017 racked up R1.95bn in insured losses, while October 2017 storms came in at R2.05bn – some R4bn in a 180-degree flip between fire and flood in just a five-month stretch," said Pieter Visser, Catastrophe Analyst at Aon Benfield Analytics.
As cities in South Africa continue to grow, buildings and structures cover the landscape more densely, inevitably equating to a greater accumulation of risk, Visser said. "The main factor for increased losses is larger, more concentrated exposure, which means that if there is a natural disaster, more households, businesses and people are affected than fifty years ago."
Individuals and businesses are also increasingly under-insured for the financial impact of these events, as weather-related property and business interruption insurance claims grow, the insurer said.
According to Aon Benfield, weather events in recent years have seen a marked increase in the frequency and intensity of severe weather conditions, with greater accumulation of exposure within cities and suburbs that are more densely populated.
South Africans should brace themselves for a "new normal" of abnormally heavy rain and hail storms, powerful winds and drought conditions in many regions, said Mandy Barrett, Head of Marketing and Volume Sales at Aon South Africa.