More than 6m people have been ordered to evacuate and over 2.4m homes and businesses were left without power as Hurricane Irma battered Florida’s west coast yesterday.
The storm lashed the so-called sunshine state with sustained winds of 130mph, leaving at least three people dead. The hurricane struck Miami with huge force, causing widespread flooding across the city. Over the weekend, the category four storm pummelled parts of the Caribbean, leading to at least 27 deaths.
Late last night, the National Hurricane Centre downgraded Irma to a category two hurricane. President Trump has said he will travel to Florida “very soon” to assess the relief efforts.
Yesterday he also approved a request from the state for a major disaster declaration, which makes federal funding available in nine counties, including Miami-Dade, Collier and Hillsborough.
Inga Beale, chief executive of insurance market Lloyd’s of London, warned that the string of storms battering the US and Caribbean coasts this month could rack up losses of $200bn (£151bn) for insurers.
“We had Harvey, which was an unusual type of storm with masses and masses of flooding. Then we have Irma, which we have said could cost $131bn, and then if you’ve got Jose and something else coming in behind it, you could end up with a series of events that could total $200bn,” she told the Sunday Times.
But she added that, “almost in a perverse way”, the hurricanes could actually benefit insurance sector by allowing them to raise premiums and putting off competition, after firms, such as pension funds and other investors, began offering protection against hurricanes and floods.
Meanwhile German reinsurance giant Munich Re’s board member Torsten Jeworrek said yesterday that Hurricane Irma is a “major event” for the industry, adding that insured losses for Hurricane Harvey could be between $20bn and $30bn.
Read more: In pictures: Hurricane Irma batters Florida