Facts + Statistics: Man-made disasters

 
Man-made disasters

In 2016 there were 327 disaster events, of which 191 were natural disasters and 136 man-made disasters, according to Swiss Re. Natural catastrophes accounted for $46 billion in insured losses, while man-made disasters resulted in additional losses of about $8 billion. Major man-made catastrophes in 2016 included fires and explosions, maritime, aviation and rail disasters, and terrorism and social unrest. Turret failure in a floating storage and offloading vessel in Ghana and steam generator failure at a French nuclear power plant were the worst man-made disasters in 2016, both making the top 20 for losses, but Swiss Re did not release the loss value. Three incidents involving migrant boats capsizing claimed 776 lives. These incidents and a church roof collapse in Nigeria that caused 160 deaths were the deadliest man-made disasters in 2016. 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 2015 dollars).

 
Transportation accidents

There were 58 catastrophic disasters attributed to transportation incidents in 2016 according to Swiss Re, including 36 maritime disasters, 11 aviation disasters and 11 rail disasters. These events resulted in 2,298 deaths worldwide. Maritime disasters caused $2.5 billion in insured losses while aviation disasters caused another $248 million in insured losses. Losses for rail disasters resulted in another $87 million in insured losses. See Swiss Re chart on Man-Made Disasters below for further information.

 
Man-Made Disasters, 2017

Event Number of incidents Deaths Insured loss ($ millions)
All man-made disasters (1) 118 2,934 $6,246
       
Major fires, explosions 45 477 $5,439
Oil, gas 15 36 3,056
Industry, warehouses 14 73 1,845
Other buildings 11 308 382
Other fires, explosions 3 22 81
Department stores 2 38 76
Aviation disasters 7 165 $410
Space 2 0 188
Crashes 3 165 131
Damage on ground 2 0 90
Miscellaneous 21 925 $200
Social unrest 1 0 200
Terrorism 13 731 0
Other miscellaneous losses 7 194 0
Maritime disasters 33 1,163 $197
Drilling platforms 1 0 90
Freighters 2 22 75
Tankers 1 0 32
Passenger ships 27 1,087 0
Other maritime accidents 2 54 0
Rail disasters (includes cableways) 10 140 $0
Mining accidents 2 64 $0

(1) Based on events classified by Swiss Re as a catastrophe. The threshold is $20.3 million in insured losses for maritime disasters, $40.7 million for aviation disasters and $50.5 million for other losses or $101.0 million in total economic losses; or at least 20 dead or missing, 50 injured or 2,000 made homeless.

Source: Swiss Re, sigma, 1/2018.

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World aviation accidents

In 2015 more than 3.5 billion people flew safely on 37.6 million 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 0.32 in 2015, or about one major accident for every 3.1 million flights. This compares with an accident rate of 0.27 in 2014. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired. There were 68 accidents in 2015 (on Eastern- and Western-built aircraft), down from 77 in 2014. The Germanwings 9525 and Metrojet 9268 losses that resulted in the deaths of 374 passengers and crew are not included in the statistics because they were caused by deliberate acts of unlawful interference, namely pilot suicide and suspected terrorism.

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 fiscal year 2015 about 786 million people flew on commercial airlines in the United States, up 4.0 percent from 2014. The Federal Aviation Administration projects that more than 1 billion people will fly on scheduled commercial airlines in the United States annually by 2031.

 
Aircraft Accidents In The United States, 2019 (1)

 

    Number of accidents  
  Flight hours (000) Total Fatal Number of
fatalities (2)
Total accidents
per 100,000
flight hours
Commercial airlines          
     10 or more seats          
          Scheduled 19,180,620 36 1 1 0.188
          Nonscheduled 605,927 4 1 3 0.660
     Less than 10 seats          
          Commuter 415,162 9 1 2 2.168
          On-demand 3,765,242 34 12 32 0.903
General aviation (3) 21,800,689 1,220 233 414 5.592
Total civil aviation NA 1,302 248 452 NA

(1) Preliminary data. Totals do not add because of collisions involving aircraft in different categories.
(2) Includes nonpassenger deaths.
(3) Private transport and recreational flying.

NA=Data not available.

Source: National Transportation Safety Board.

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  • There were 1,302 civil aviation accidents in 2019, down from 1,347 civil aviation accidents in 2018. However, total fatalities rose to 414 in 2019 from 379 in 2018.
  • In 2019 there was one fatality on a large scheduled commercial airline, same as in 2018. There were three fatalities on large nonscheduled airlines (charter airlines), breaking a five-year trend with no fatalities.
  • Small commuter airlines had two accidents in 2019, while there were none in 2018. There were nine fatalities in 2019 and two in 2018.
  • The number of small on-demand airline (air taxi) accidents fell to 34 in 2019, from 40 in 2018. There were 32 fatalities on air taxis in 2019, up from 16 in 2018.
  • There were 1,220 general aviation (noncommercial) accidents in 2019, down from 1,275 in 2018. 2019 accidents resulted in 414 deaths, up from 379 in 2018.

 
Marine accidents

Marine accidents killed 1,596 people and caused $2.5 billion in insured losses in 2016. In 2016, three maritime disasters made the top ten disasters of 2016 in terms of victims. In March, two boats carrying migrants capsized, one in Greece (Mediterranean Sea) resulting in 358 deaths and one in Libyan Arab Jamahiriya causing 240 deaths. In addition, in September a boat carrying migrants capsized in Egypt, killing 178 people. 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. By mid-2014, insured losses for the disaster had risen to about $2 billion. 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, 2017 (1)

Category Number of events Victims Insured losses ($ millions)
Drilling platforms 1 0 90
Freighters 2 22 75
Tankers 1 0 32
Passenger ships 27 1,087 0
Other maritime accidents 2 54 0
Total 33 1,163 $197

(1) Based on events classified by Swiss Re as a catastrophe. The threshold for a maritime disaster is $20.3 million in insured losses or total losses of $99.0 million; or at least 20 dead or missing, 50 injured or 2,000 made homeless.

Source: Swiss Re, sigma, No. 1/2018.

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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 15 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 E&P offshore (3) Explosion, fire Piper Alpha, North Sea U.K. $1,960
2 Jan. 11, 2017 Refinery Fire Ruwais, Abu Dhabi U.A.E 1,000+
3 Oct. 23, 1989 Chemical Explosion, vapour cloud explosion Pasadena, Texas U.S. 1,520
4 Mar. 19, 1989 E&P offshore (3) Explosion, fire Baker, Gulf of Mexico U.S. 900
5 Mar. 15, 2001 E&P offshore (3) Explosion Rancador Field, Campos Basin Brazil 850
6 Sep. 25, 1998 Gas processing Explosion, vapour cloud explosion Sale, Longford, Victoria Australia 810
7 Apr. 24, 1988 E&P offshore (3) Blowout Enchova, Campos Basin Brazil 760
8 Sep. 21, 2001 Fertilizer Explosion Toulouse France 730
9 Jun. 25, 2000 Refinery Explosion, fire Mina Al-Ahmadi Kuwait 720
10 May 4, 1988 Chemical Explosion Henderson, Nevada U.S. 690
11 Jan. 19, 2004 Gas processing Explosion, fire Skikda Algeria 690
12 Apr. 1, 2015 E&P offshore (3) Fire Abkatun, Bay of Campeche Mexico 690
13 May 5, 1988 Refinery Explosion, vapour cloud explosion Norco, Louisiana U.S. 670
14 Mar. 11, 2011 Refinery Explosion, fire Sendai Japan 650
15 Apr. 21, 2010 E&P offshore (3) Explosion, fire Gulf of Mexico U.S. 640

(1) Property damage only.
(2) Inflated to December 2017 values.
(3) Exploration and production.

Source: The 100 Largest Losses, 1978-2017, March 2018, 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 Costliest Large-Loss Fires, 2019 (1)

($ millions)

Rank State Month Type of facility Estimated loss
1 Texas November Petrochemical plant $1,100.0
2 California October Wildfire 383.8
3 California June Restaurant 36.0
4 California June Helicopter 30.0
4 Texas July Power generation plant 30.0
5 Ohio February Shipboard fire (In port for repairs) 25.0
6 California October Wildfire 20.5
6 Tennessee September Metal refining 20.5
7 North Carolina April Coffee shop gas explosion and fire 20.0
7 Massachusetts March Manufacturing 20.0

(1) Large-loss fires of $20 million or more in 2019.

Note: Loss data shown here may differ from figures shown elsewhere for the same event due to differences in the date of publication, the geographical area covered and other criteria used by organizations collecting the data.

Source: National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.org.

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Top 10 Costliest Large-Loss Fires In U.S. History

($ millions)

      Estimated loss (1)
Rank Date Location/event Dollars when occurred In 2020 dollars (2)
1 Sep. 11, 2001 World Trade Center (terrorist attacks) $33,400 $48, 536 (3)
2 Oct. 8, 2017 Northern CA Wildland Urban Interface fire 10,000 10,504
3 Apr. 18, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire 350 9,973
4 Nov. 8, 2018 Camp Wildland Urban Interface fire 8,500 8,738
5 Oct. 8-9, 1871 Great Chicago Fire 168 3,599
6 Nov. 8, 2018 Woolsey Wildland Urban Interface fire 2,900 2,981
7 Oct. 20, 1991 Oakland, CA, firestorm 1,500 2,829
8 Oct. 20, 2007 San Diego County, CA, The Southern California Firestorm 1,800 2,232
9 Dec. 14, 2017 Southern CA Wildland Urban Interface fire 1,800 1,892
10 Sep. 12, 2015 Valley Fire, CA, Wildland Urban Interface fire 1,500 1,633

(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 2020 dollars made by the Insurance Information Insitute using the Consumer Price Index.
(3) Differs from inflation-adjusted estimates made by other organizations due to the use of different deflators.

Source: ©National Fire Protection Association. www.nfpa.org

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