Man-Made Disasters

MAN-MADE DISASTERS

In 2014, 366 catastrophic events occurred, including 189 natural catastrophes and 147 man-made disasters, according to Swiss Re. Natural catastrophes caused about $28 billion in insured losses in 2014, while man-made disasters resulted in additional losses of about $7 billion. Major man-made catastrophes in 2014 included maritime, aviation and rail disasters, fires and explosions, and terrorism and social unrest. A fire at a petrochemical plant in Texas in April caused the largest man-made disaster loss in 2014. The September 11 terrorist attack in the U.S. was the costliest man-made disaster in history, based on Swiss Re data going back to 1970. It caused $25.1 billion in insured losses (in 2014 dollars).

TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENTS

There were 56 catastrophic disasters attributed to transportation incidents in 2014, according to Swiss Re, including 39 maritime disasters, 12 aviation disasters and five rail disasters. These events resulted in 3,205 deaths worldwide. Aviation disasters caused $916 million in insured losses, while maritime disasters caused another $783 million.  Losses for rail disasters were not reported. See Swiss Re chart on Man Made Disasters below for further information.

 

MAN-MADE DISASTERS IN 2014

  Number of incidents Deaths Insured loss ($ millions)
All man-made disasters (1) 147 5,711 $6,958
       
Major fires, explosions 43 490 $4,257
Industry, warehouses 12 152 1,278
Oil, gas 18 40 2,928
Other buildings 9 296 50
Other fires, explosions 4 2 NA
Aviation disasters 12 960 $916
Crashes 7 940 337
Explosions, fires 1 20 NA
Space 4 NA 579
Maritime disasters  39 2,118 $783
Freighters 3 8 156
Passenger ships 28 2,000 231
Drilling platforms 4 NA 326
Other maritime accidents 4 110 70
Rail disasters (includes cableways) 5 127 NA
Mining accidents 7 400 $110
Collapse of buildings/bridges 3 42 NA
Miscellaneous 38 1,574 $893
Social unrest 1 21 350
Terrorism 28 1,361 543
Other miscellaneous losses 9 192 NA

(1) Based on events classified by Swiss Re as a catastrophe. The threshold is $19.3 million in insured losses for maritime disasters, $38.6 million for aviation disasters and $48.0 million for other losses or $96 million in total economic loss; or at least 20 dead or missing, 50 injured or 2,000 made homeless.

NA=Data not available.

Source: Swiss Re, sigma, 2/2015.

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WORLD AVIATION ACCIDENTS

In 2013, 744 million people flew on commercial airlines in the United States, compared with 739 million in 2012 and 734 million in 2011. The Federal Aviation Administration projects that more than 1 billion people will fly on scheduled commercial airlines in the United States annually by 2028.

In 2014 more than 3.3 billion people flew safely on 38.0 million global flights, according to the International Air Transport Association. The global accident rate (as measured by the rate of hull losses on western- built jets) was 0.23 in 2014, or about one accident for every 4.4 million flights and the lowest rate in history. The 2013 accident rate was 0.41. (A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired.) There were 73 accidents in 2014 (on eastern- and western-built aircraft), down from 81 in 2013. A Malaysia Airlines jet shot down on July 17, 2014, over Ukraine became the seventh deadliest crash in history, with 298 fatalities. This crash is not counted in the accident statistics. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 en route to Beijing disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 on board. For further information see the International Air Transport Association.

The deadliest world aviation accident was the collision of two Boeing 747 passenger planes on the runway of an airport in the Spanish island of Tenerife in 1977. The crash resulted in the deaths of 583 out of 644 passengers according to the Geneva-based Aircraft Crashes Record Office’s list of Worst Aviation Accidents.

UNITED STATES

In the United States the National Transportation Safety Board compiles data on aviation flight hours, accidents and fatalities for commercial and general aviation.

Commercial airlines are divided into two categories according to the type of aircraft used: aircraft with 10 or more seats and aircraft with fewer than 10 seats. The nonscheduled commercial aircraft with more than 10 seats are also called charter airlines. Commercial airlines flying aircraft with fewer than 10 seats include commuter (scheduled) airlines, and on-demand air taxis. General aviation includes all U.S. noncommercial or privately owned aircraft.

In 2013, 744 million people flew on commercial airlines in the United States, compared with 739 million in 2012 and 734 million in 2011. The Federal Aviation Administration projects that more than 1 billion people will fly on scheduled commercial airlines in the United States annually by 2028.

AIRCRAFT ACCIDENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 2013 (1)

    Number of accidents    
  Flight hours
(000) 
Total Fatal Number of
fatalities (2)
Accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
Commercial airlines          
     10 or more seats          
          Scheduled 17,150 20 1 2 0.117
          Nonscheduled 478 3 1 7 0.628
     Less than 10 seats          
          Commuter 322 8 3 6 2.481
          On-demand 3,562 44 10 27 1.240
General aviation 20,887 1,222 221 387 5.850
Total civil aviation NA 1,297 236 429 NA

(1) Preliminary data. Totals do not add because of collisions involving aircraft in different categories.
(2) Includes nonpassenger deaths.

NA=Data not available.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board.

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  • There were 1,297 civil aviation accidents in 2013, down from 1,539 in 2012. Total fatalities fell to 429 from 447.
  • There were two fatalities on large scheduled commercial airlines in 2013, following three years with no fatalities. There were seven fatalities on large nonscheduled airlines (charter airlines) in 2013. There were no fatalities in the prior two years.
  • Small commuter airlines had eight accidents 2013 compared with four in 2012. There were six fatalities in 2013 after six years with no fatalities.
  • The number of small on-demand airline (air taxi) accidents grew to 44 in 2013 from 37 in 2012.
  • There were 1,222 general aviation (noncommercial) accidents in 2013, down 17 percent from 1,471 in 2012. 2013 accidents resulted in 387 deaths, down from 432 in 2012.

MARINE ACCIDENTS

Marine accidents killed 1,135 people and caused $814 million in insured losses in 2013. In June, a fire on a cargo vessel in the Indian Ocean near Bahrain resulted in about $300 million in total damages. In 2012, 30 people were killed when the Costa Concordia cruise ship carrying 4,200 passengers went aground off the coast of Italy. The Costa Concordia incident was the costliest man-made disaster in 2012, causing $515 million in insured damages losses when it occurred. The greatest maritime disaster in peacetime happened in December 1987, when the Philippine ferry, the Doa Paz, collided with the Vector, a small coastal oil tanker, according to the National Maritime Museum in the United Kingdom. Only 24 of the 4,317 Doa passengers survived. By contrast, 1,500 perished in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

 

MARINE DISASTERS, 2014 (1)

Category Number of events Victims Insured losses ($ millions)
Freighters 3 8 $156
Passenger ships 28 2,000 231
Drilling platforms 4 0 0
Other maritime incidents 4 110 70
Total 39 2,118 $783

(1) Based on events classified by Swiss Re as a catastrophe. The threshold for a maritime disaster is $19.3 million in insured losses or total losses of $96 million; or at least 20 dead or missing, 50 injured or 2,000 made homeless.

Source: Swiss Re, sigma, No. 2/2015.

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ENERGY

Some 167 crew members lost their lives in a July, 1988 fire and explosion aboard the Piper Alpha oil platform in the North Sea. The incident, which caused property damage losses of $1.8 billion in 2013 dollars, represents the largest single property damage event in a Marsh’s study of losses in the energy industry from 1972 to 2013.

 

TOP 20 WORLD PROPERTY DAMAGE LOSSES IN THE HYDROCARBON INDUSTRY (1)

(US $ millions)

Rank Date Plant type Event type Location Country Property loss (2)
1 Jul. 7, 1988 Upstream Explosion/fire Piper Alpha, North Sea U.K. $1,810
2 Oct. 23,1989 Petrochem Vapour cloud explosion Pasadena, Texas U.S. 1,400
3 Jan. 19, 2004 Gas processing Explosion/fire Skikda Algeria 940
4 Jun. 4, 2009 Upstream Collision Norwegian Sector North Sea 840
5 Mar. 19, 1989 Upstream Explosion/fire Gulf of Mexico U.S. 830
6 Jun. 25, 2000 Refinery Explosion/fire Mina Al-Ahmadi Kuwait 820
7 May 15, 2001 Upstream Explosion/fire/sinking Campos Basin Brasil 790
8 Sep. 25, 1998 Gas processing Explosion Longford, Victoria Australia 750
9 Apr. 24, 1988 Upstream Blowout Enchova, Campos Basin Brazil 700
10 Sep. 21, 2001 Petrochemical Explosion Toulouse France 680
11 May 4, 1988 Petrochemical Explosion Henderson, Nevada U.S. 640
12 May 5, 1988 Refinery Vapour cloud explosion Norco, Louisiana U.S. 610
13 Mar. 11, 2011  Refinery Earthquake (3) Sendai Japan 600
14 Apr. 21, 2010 Upstream Blowout/explosion/fire Gulf of Mexico U.S. 600
15 Sep. 12, 2008 Refinery Hurricane Texas U.S. 550
16 Jun. 13, 2013 Petrochemical Explosion/fire Geismar, Louisiana U.S. 510
17 Apr. 2, 2013 Refinery Flooding/fire La Plata, Ensenada Argentina 500 (4)
18 Dec. 25, 1997 Gas processing Explosion/fire Bintulu, Sarawak Malaysia 490
19 Jul. 27, 2005 Upstream Collision/fire Mumbai High North Field India 480
20 Nov. 14, 1987 Petrochemical Vapour cloud explosion Pampa, Texas USA 480

(1) Property damage, debris removal and clean-up costs.
(2) Inflated to December 2013 values.
(3) Loss to refinery following the Tohuku earthquake.
(4) Preliminary.

Source: Energy Practice, Marsh & McLennan Companies.

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LARGE LOSS FIRES

The charts below show the costliest large-loss fires, many of which involve industrial facilities and other non-residential structures. The rankings are based on property loss data from the National Fire Protection Association.

 

TOP 10 MOST COSTLY LARGE-LOSS FIRES, 2013

($ millions)

Rank Month State Type of facility Estimated loss
1 June Colorado Wildfire $421
2 April  Texas Fertilizer manufacturing 100
3 April Connecticut Single-family home 50
4 January Wisconsin Egg processing plant 40
5 April Arkansas Aluminum die cast manufacturing 30
6 June Indiana Warehouse 20
7 July California Tunnel 17
8 October California Apartment building 15
9 December California Wildfire 15
10 February  Missouri Restaurant 15

Source: Reproduced with permission from Large-Loss Fires in the United States, 2013 by Stephen G. Badger, ©National Fire Protection Association. www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics.

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TOP 10 MOST COSTLY LARGE-LOSS FIRES IN U.S. HISTORY

($ millions)

      Estimated loss (1)
Rank Date Location/event Dollars when occurred In 2013 dollars (2)
1 Sep. 11, 2001 World Trade Center (terrorist attacks) $33,400 (3) $44,000 (3)
2 Apr. 18, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire 350 9,000
3 Oct. 8-9, 1871 Great Chicago Fire 168 3,300
4 Oct. 20, 1991 Oakland, CA, fire storm 1,500 2,600
5 Oct. 20, 2007 San Diego County, CA, The Southern California Firestorm 1,800 2,000
6 Nov. 9, 1872 Great Boston Fire 75 1,500
7 Oct. 23, 1989 Pasadena, Texas, polyolefin plant 750 1,400
8 May 4, 2000 Los Alamos, NM, Cerro Grande wildland fire 1,000 1,400
9 Oct. 25, 2003 Julian, CA, Cedar wildland fire  1,100 1,300
10 Feb. 7, 1904 Baltimore, MD, Baltimore Conflagration 50 1,300

(1) Loss estimates are from National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) records. The list is limited to fires for which some reliable dollar loss estimates exists.
(2) Adjustment to 2013 dollars made by the NFPA using the Consumer Price Index, including the U.S. Census Bureau's estimates of the index for historical times.
(3) Differs from inflation-adjusted estimates made by other organizations due to the use of different deflators.

Source: Reproduced with permission from Large-Loss Fires in the United States, 2013 by Stephen G. Badger, ©National Fire Protection Association. www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics.

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