When Hurricane Ivan hit the Caribbean, the population was already prepared for the worst. But Helen Groom reveals in this four-page report that the islands and the insurance industry faced a huge problem
No escape: a loss adjuster’s struggle in the devastation
Frank DeLessio says it was like rebels had overrun the place
“We were boiling water on the beach with a camp fire, and praying for rain so that we could wash”
Frank DeLessio Loss adjuster
line filled couple of weeks.”
He had a large portfolio from the three main insurers on the island. “We estimated we would have about 2,000 claims to deal with, from the very small to over $100m (£53m).”
He is still getting new files. “But the number of claims we’re dealing with now is starting to plateau. The smaller claims have been settled, and the larger more complicated ones are at full throttle. It will be at least June before the office on Cayman is scaled back.” IT ➔
For 10 days on Grand Cayman there was no electricity, no sanitation and no transport
Axis Catastrophe Office, Grand Cayman, 2004-5
➔ Frank DeLessio arrived on Grand Cayman a day and a half after Hurricane Ivan hit and thought there had been a political coup.
“We really didn’t get a full picture of the devastation when we flew in. It was a shock after we landed. It was almost like rebels had overrun the place,” says the technical director of loss adjuster Axis.
“I have lived through eight or nine major hurricanes and this was the first time I felt so isolated. The amount of devastation in such a combined area and the total inability to escape was unique. There was nowhere to go to escape the problem. It was the worst I’ve ever seen.”
The insurance industry was shut down for the first few days. And for the first 10 days it was like being in a commune.
“People really helped each other. We called it ‘Survivor Cayman’ like the television show. I put a stop on anybody coming in because there was nothing they could do,” says DeLessio.
There was no sanitation, no electricity and no shops to buy food. “We were boiling water on the beach with a camp fire, and praying for
rain so that we could wash in fresh water,” says DeLessio.
DeLessio managed to ship in some genera- tors and get a few cars. “But we had to use tour buses as taxis as there weren’t enough, and we had to queue for fuel. It was a unique experience.
“We had no contact with the outside world. We found out that the outside world wasn’t hearing a lot of information about how bad it was.”
By the second week after Ivan there were about 15 adjusters on the island, and by the third around 20. “We got close to 30 adjusters at our peak time. This was the last place to be hit by a hurricane during the season so people were hard to come by.”
Much of DeLessio’s job in the first weeks was about organising things. “We had to get an office, furniture, support staff, and computer equipment. Setting up an opera- tion like this is a very large cash drain, and it’s a major effort.”
And he had to be something of an agony uncle. “The insureds were happy just to talk to someone. We worked from sun up to sun down. It was very invigorating, a very adrena-
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www.insurancetimes.co.uk | 7 April 2005 | Insurancetimes