[23 March 2018]: Just five months after Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal were battered by devastating hailstorms and torrential rain in October and November, Gauteng is once again the scene of widespread flooding and weather-related chaos. Roads, properties and vehicles have been flooded and damaged, with the cost of damages expected to run into millions of Rands yet again. Weather reports have warned that heavy rainfall will continue into the weekend, with a high risk of flooding in low lying areas.
Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa, says the damage wrought across the country over the last few months and years highlights just how vulnerable we are to the changing weather patterns and climate change. General consensus from meteorologists is that climate change is having a massive impact on property losses, and South Africa should brace for a new normal of abnormally heavy rain and hail storms, powerful winds and on the opposite extreme - drought conditions in many regions,” says Mandy.
According to ClimateWise, weather-related catastrophes such as floods, windstorms and droughts have increased six hundred percent since the 1950s, and have cost the world economy $170bn in 2016 alone, five times more than the 1980s and taking huge leap up from the $103billion in losses recorded in 2015.
Pieter Visser, a Catastrophe Analyst at Aon South Africa says that combined catastrophe insured losses for South Africa in 2017 was the highest ever recorded. “Insurance released more than R5billion towards affected parties, which is absolutely necessary to rejuvenate economic recovery and renewal in affected regions,” says Visser. “Reinsurers do not regard South Africa as a low catastrophe risk region anymore, with the country having experienced a high frequency of large loss events in the last five years. This is now regarded as the new normal and has resulted in adjustments and steep price increases by reinsurers. Insurers are retaining more risk than ever before, which is driving a need for greater understanding of these risks. When combined with high global losses, insurers will need to review risk premiums associated with natural catastrophes,” Visser says.
Safety tips during flooding conditions
The severity of the flooding and damage we are seeing is alarming, and while there is little that you can do to prevent a flood, there are some important tips that can help protect your personal safety and assets in such freak weather conditions,” explains Mandy Barrett of Aon South Africa.
Aon provides the following advice
On the road
- Take special note of weather warnings and if possible, avoid being on the road or out and about during such times.
- If you can, rather avoid driving in heavy downpours. Treacherous potholes could be hiding in the guise of a puddle. Never attempt to drive through a flooded area of the road – even a few centimetres of water is powerful enough to sweep a car away.
- If caught in a flash flood on the road, get yourself to safety as quickly as possible – if you can, get out of the vehicle and get to high ground. Don’t close all the windows as the water will cause a vacuum and trap you in the car.
- Many car accident claims are due to slippery roads and potholes. Tyre damage is not an uncommon occurrence, and is normally not covered by a motor insurance policy unless another part of the vehicle is damaged at the same time.
- Check your tyre tread and replace worn tyres - an accident claim could potentially be repudiated if the tread is deemed insufficient to have stopped the vehicle in time. The legally required minimum tread depth is 1.6mm.
- Increase your following distance and reduce your speed to allow enough time to react.
- Watch out for potholes as they are filled with water in rainy conditions. Heavy rainfalls can also cause potholes to appear where there weren’t any previously.
- Watch for motorists swerving to avoid objects in the road and be prepared to do the same.
- Many traffic lights are out of order during heavy rain, so drive carefully.
- Roads are congested with many tempers fraying, keep your cool.
Tips for home
- Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover any damage to the structure of the building as a direct result of freak rainstorms, but will not cover maintenance-related damage. This means that while your insurance will respond by repairing the damage caused by a leaking roof, it will not cover the repair of the roof’s waterproofing if it deteriorated due to lack of maintenance.
- If you’re faced with flooding of your property, try to move as many of your belongings as you can out of the water – the longer the water is left sitting, the more damage it causes. Try and clear away as much of the water as you possibly can to prevent further and permanent damage.
- Half a meter of paving along the perimeter of a building can help with damp problems.
- Keep gutters clear of debris to facilitate proper drainage around the house. Protect inlet/outlet pipes of any drains and storm water drainage against blockage from debris.
- Check the waterproofing and flashings on the roof on a regular basis.
- Install lightning rods along the outside of the house if your area is prone to lightning strikes and fit plugs with surge protection.
“Discuss your motor, household and business insurance with your broker to make sure you are comprehensively covered for such eventualities. The growing risks presented by our changing weather patterns demands that you review your needs in detail and get impartial and professional advice to ensure your cover meets those needs. Choice, simplicity of wording and customisation will ensure that your assets are covered correctly,” Mandy concludes.