Hail storms, tornadoes and flooding

3 min read 18 October 2017

Large parts of South Africa have been ravaged by hail storms, a few tornadoes and heavy rain which caused flooding and extensive property damage in the past week.  South Africa’s largest insurer Santam today announced that it was still assisting clients with claims arising from these events.

Santam was processing more than 4000 claims resulting from flooding in Durban and the hailstorm in large parts of Gauteng last week. Ebrahim Asmal, Santam’s Executive Head of Claims and Group Sourcing says: “In both Durban and the affected cities in Gauteng, the majority of the claims are for non-motor items such as damages to homes and the contents of homes and businesses. In Gauteng, our non-motor claims include a few large agriculture and commercial entities that were affected by the tornado and hail storm.” Santam was also processing more than 1000 vehicle claims following the hail storm in Gauteng specifically.

Santam’s catastrophe management plan entails the deployment of a special claims team tasked with assisting the affected communities. “The moment we classify a claims event as a catastrophe, we activate our plan which is fully operational within 48 hours. Additional assessment resources have already been seconded to the affected areas and will be supplemented by more assessors this week. We’re still assisting our clients to avoid any further damage to their properties and helping them to ensure that they can get their lives back to normal as soon as possible,” says Asmal, adding that the Santam claims team was also still managing claims received from heavy storms in KwaZulu-Natal and hail storms in Mpumalanga in the past three weeks.

Last year, Santam, which provides insurance cover to more than one million South African clients, paid out R500 million in claims resulting from catastrophe events such as flash floods and hail storms. Says Asmal: “In the six months to June 2017, we processed R800 million in claims resulting from a storm in the Western Cape and fires in the Southern and Eastern Cape.”

Extreme weather not uncommon

Santam’s Agricultural Meteorologist, Johan van den Berg says the early to mid-summer months in South Africa are known for variable and unstable weather patterns. “The combination of cold upper air conditions remaining from winter and tropical moisture from summer systems are usually a recipe for stormy weather.”

Van den Berg says historical records show that at least 24 hail events described as “disasters” occurred between 1900 and 1990 in Gauteng, amounting to an average of one disaster hail event every three years.

According to Van den Berg, extreme rainfall as experienced in Durban last week is also not uncommon. “There have been between 45 and 50 days with rainfall of up to 100mm per day in the Durban area since 1880. We believe Durban’s changing landscape has increased water runoff and prevents water filtration. This, in turn, causes damage to vehicles and buildings.”

Building community resilience

As Africa’s leading short-term insurer, Santam recognises that extreme weather events are increasing in intensity and occurrence as predicted by climate change science and the rising urbanisation patterns of South Africa. This poses serious risks to the stability and quality of human society as well as global economy, and the business is a strong advocate of the need to build local level resilience and risk protection.

To this end, Santam is committed to working with its stakeholders to enhance risk-based decision-making that builds community resilience along our value chain. Santam was the first African insurer to mobilise the short-term insurance industry in response to increasing climate and weather risk, and has created the Partnership for Risk & Resilience, a national initiative to capacitate 53 municipalities to better deal with flood and fire risks. As part of the global insurance industry, the company is formalising its response to increasing climate risk and aligning its own initiatives accordingly.