Insurers brace for fresh claims as hurricane season hits the US

INSURERS prepared to face a fresh round of catastrophe losses yesterday as hurricane Irene gained strength and moved up the eastern seaboard of the US towards densely-populated New York.

Irene, rated a major Category 3 storm with winds of 115 miles per hour (185 km/h), roared through the Bahamas on a path set to hit the coast as early as this evening.

As forecasts of more than four days can have a margin of error of up to 200 miles, US emergency officials have warned the entire east coast region to be on the alert for what they describe as a large and potentially dangerous storm.

Irene is the first large hurricane of the Atlantic season this year and any losses to property or businesses are likely to affect specialty insurers such as those in the Lloyd’s market.

“If the forecasts are verified by the actual event, this’ll just be another multibillion-dollar event on top of an incredibly busy year already,” said Jose Miranda, a senior executive at catastrophe modelling firm Eqecat.

A large claims bill from Irene could raise insurance rates globally, aiding insurers’ recovery from a year of record industry losses placed at an estimated $90bn (£54.5bn).