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Monday, 28 October, 2002, 11:29 GMT
UK storm costs escalate
Overturned plane at Cardiff airport
Freak weather caused chaos at Cardiff flying school
In the calm after the storm, insurance groups and businesses have started counting the cost of the latest severe weather to hit the UK.


Freak weather incidents are becoming more common

Malcolm Tarling, ABI

Insurers said the cost of the storms could be as high as 200m, when lost business as well as physical damage is taken into account.

And the British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) said the latest round of pay-outs to policy holders could result in higher premiums.

The gales this weekend reached over 90mph, and claimed seven lives in the UK, and many more on the continent.

More freak weather?

Weather experts said the storms, which measured force 10 on the Beaufort scale, were not the worst to hit Britain, and were less severe than those of October 1987.

However, their timing could cost the industry and consumers dearly.

Floods in October 2000
The October 2000 floods cost insurance groups dearly

Peter Straddon, technical manager at the BIBA, told BBC News Online that a run of high-claim incidents in the past two years, including the World Trade Centre attacks, last year's floods, and high winds earlier this year, "have all contributed" to a potential need to increase premiums.

Mr Straddon said it was too early to say what the effect would be, but reassured policy holders that it would "not be huge".

Double hit

The BIBA has estimated that cost of the physical damage in the UK could be as high as 100m.

But it said this figure could double if the damage prevented staff getting into work.

Man struggling with umbrella
Many employees struggled to work

"Loss of income could be a big problem," Mr Straddon said.

The Confederation of British Industry said it was too early to say how much disruption the storms would cause to UK businesses, with employees still struggling in to work throughout the day.

Many leisure and tourist attractions have also been affected, with some forced to close and others noting a drop in visitor numbers.

Reassurance

Despite the cost to insurers, the good news for policyholders is that "storm and wind damage" is part of standard household insurance, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The ABI said one incident alone was not enough to affect a policyholder's premium.

The ABI's Malcolm Tarling told BBC News Online that claims such as those resulting from this weekend's storms were "exactly what we expect to see" and "they are factored in to policies".

Mr Tarling said policy holders need not worry about claiming, and that some insurance groups were in fact actively contacting policy holders in areas which had been worst hit.

Wake up call

But homeowners without insurance could be in trouble.

BIBA estimates that about 25% of private consumers are not insured, meaning they will have to foot the bill for any damage to their own and possibly neighbouring houses.

Owners of cars insured only for "third party, fire and theft" and not fully comprehensively could also be forced to foot the bill for any damage.

"This is another example of the importance of insurance," said Mr Tarling.

He added that this could become increasingly important as the UK weather becomes more erratic.

"Freak weather incidents are becoming more common," he said.

See also:

28 Oct 02 | Business
28 Oct 02 | Scotland
27 Oct 02 | England
25 Oct 02 | Moneybox
14 Oct 02 | Business
15 Aug 02 | Business
29 Jan 02 | Business
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