Notepad: Risk in Review – October


Massive Fire Destroys National Museum of Brazil

brazil museum fire

In September, countless artifacts were lost when a fire destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. The 200-year old museum housed more than 20 million items, including frescoes from Pompeii, Egyptian and Chilean mummies, dinosaur skeletons, and an 11,500-year-old human skull that was among the oldest ever discovered in the Americas. According to estimates, 90% of the collection was lost in the blaze. Although the immediate cause of the fire was initially unclear, many pointed to years of financial neglect as the ultimate culprit. Due to budget cuts and poor funding overall, the museum was in a state of disrepair, with peeling paint, exposed wiring and, perhaps most important, no fire suppression system. Further exacerbating the disaster, fire hydrants in the area also did not work and firefighters were forced to collect water from a nearby lake to try to control the blaze. In response to what many considered a preventable tragedy, hundreds of Brazilians took to the streets to protest the government corruption and financial mismanagement that they believe made the fire possible.

Nike Generates Controversy Over Kaepernick Ad

nike colin kaepernick adNike recently drew strong reactions after unveiling an ad campaign featuring NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who gained attention for kneeling during the national anthem in silent protest of racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. Critics, including Donald Trump, have condemned his protest as disrespectful to the military and the country as a whole. The ad quickly sparked a ­negative response, with many on social media calling for boycotts of Nike products and filming themselves burning company apparel in protest. Market research firm Morning Consult found that Nike’s favorability rating dropped from a +69 favorable impression among consumers to +35 in the immediate wake of the ad, and 10% fewer consumers said they were likely to purchase Nike products in the future. However, the spot also drew considerable positive attention, with many others on social media, including athletes and celebrities, praising the company’s stance. Indeed, the risk may have paid off—the Apex Marketing Group found that Nike received $43 million worth of media exposure in the 24 hours after the ad went public, and Edison Trends reported Nike’s online sales were up 31% in the three-day period after the ad debuted.

Monsoon Floods Devastate India

This summer, the state of Kerala in southern India endured some of the most severe flooding to hit the region in almost a century. Unusually heavy monsoon rains overwhelmed dams and triggered landslides, killing more than 480 people and forcing at least one million to take refuge in government relief camps. While damage assessments were still underway as of Sept. 3, the Disaster Management & Mitigation Unit of the Emmanuel Hospital Association, a nonprofit health care provider in India, estimated that losses could be as high as 50,000 crore rupees (about $7 billion). They also reported that more than 10,000 kilometers of roads, 200 bridges and 20,000 houses had been damaged in the disaster. In addition, affected areas had to battle water-borne diseases, including an outbreak of leptospirosis that had killed at least 60 people by early September. The flooding was officially designated as a Level 3 “calamity of severe nature.” Under India’s National Disaster Management Guidelines, this is the highest level of disaster classification, indicating that national assistance will be required for relief and rehabilitation.

Monsanto Faces Widespread Weedkiller Liability

roundup monsanto lawsuitA San Francisco court ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to a school groundskeeper who contracted terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using the company’s Roundup weedkiller. According to the ruling, exposure to glyphosate, a key ingredient in the product, was responsible for causing the disease. Bayer, which bought Monsanto for $63 billion earlier this year, saw its stock plummet in the days after the verdict, erasing as much as $16 billion in market value. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” but the results of other studies have been mixed and even contradictory, including a 2017 EPA assessment that said glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer. Nevertheless, the verdict opens the door to additional liability for Bayer as it faces almost 9,000 similar cases brought by plaintiffs who also claim their cancer was caused by Monsanto herbicides.

Puerto Rico Raises Hurricane Maria Death Toll

puerto rico hurricane fatalitiesIn August, the Puerto Rican government significantly increased its official ­Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975 after a commissioned study by George Washington University researchers revealed the broader extent of the storm’s damage. The new number is almost 50 times greater than the previous official estimate from December 2017 of 64 deaths. The discrepancy is primarily due to the fact that the lower figure only accounted for people directly killed by the hurricane from structural collapses, flying debris, floods and drownings. The new tally also includes the number of additional storm-related deaths caused by disease and lack of access to clean water and electricity in the six months after Maria between September 2017 and February 2018. In total, Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $90 billion in damages, according to the National Hurricane Center, making it the third-most costly Atlantic storm on record after Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey.

Morgan O'Rourke

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About the Author

Morgan O’Rourke is editor in chief of Risk Management and director of publications for the Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS)


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