February 16th, 2009

2008 North Indian Ocean Tropical Cyclone Review

Posted at 12:45 AM ET

Dr. Rebecca Cheetham, Instrat®
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Four named tropical cyclones developed in the North Indian Ocean basin in 2008. Of these, Cyclone Nargis became a Category 4 storm and caused major damage and loss of life when it made landfall in Myanmar.

Cyclone Nargis (April 27 - May 3, 2008)

Cyclone Nargis developed in the Bay of Bengal on April 27, 2008. Favorable atmospheric and oceanic conditions led to rapid intensification of the storm, which became a Category 4 cyclone on May 2, 2008 with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph (215 kmph).

Cyclone Nargis made landfall on May 2, 2008 in the Irrawaddy delta region in Myanmar as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of around 132 mph (213 kmph). After landfall, Nargis gradually weakened as it moved inland and tracked directly over Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, as a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of around 80 mph (130 kmph). After passing over Yangon, the storm continued to weaken and became a tropical storm as it crossed the mountainous region to the east of the country.

Severe and widespread flooding occurred in areas around the landfall location, which was triggered as a result of torrential rainfall and an accompanying storm surge that affected the low-lying Irrawaddy delta region. The cities of Irrawaddy, Pegu and Yangon were all impacted as Nargis crossed Myanmar, with the city of Yangon (population of around 6 million) sustaining particularly severe damage. In addition to widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure, there were tens of thousands of fatalities, making Nargis one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of 2008.

According to recent reports, Cyclone Nargis is estimated to have claimed more that 135,000 lives in Myanmar, with 85,000 deaths officially confirmed and 54,000 people still missing. The storm surge associated with Nargis travelled as far as 25 miles (40 km) inland. The country was inundated with water around 11 feet (3.5 metres) deep and more than a million of Myanmar’s population were made homeless. Reports said hundreds of thousands of buildings were destroyed by the storm and the government of Myanmar has estimated the economic damage at about USD11 billion.

Although Nargis was a huge humanitarian disaster, losses to the insurance industry were minimal due to very low insurance penetration in Myanmar.

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Guy Carpenter’s Instrat® department provides CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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