Hurricane Irene, which hit the Bahamas today, could cause higher insured losses on the islands than 1999’s hurricane Floyd, according to risk modelling firm AIR Worldwide.

Floyd, which ravaged three islands in the Bahamas in 1999 cost the industry £3.7bn in 2010 dollars, according to Swiss Re.

Irene, currently a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, travelled up the spine of the Bahamas – which along with Floyd is one of only three storms to do so in the past 160 years.

AIR said Nassau, the capital and largest city in the Bahamas with the largest concentration of insured values, is likely to be on the weaker western side of Hurricane Irene.

“New Providence Island, where Nassau is situated, has a total insured value of $19.5bn (2009 USD)—while, by comparison, the island of Abaco has a total insured value of about $1.3bn (2009 USD). In 1999, Hurricane Floyd passed just to the east of Abaco Island. As a result, Irene will likely cause higher losses than Floyd,” said AIR scientist Scott Stransky in a statement.

At 08.00 Eastern Standard Time, Irene was 65 miles east-northeast of Nassau, with sustained wind speeds of 115 miles per hour and higher gusts.

After leaving the Bahamas, Irene is expected to veer north, reaching North Carolina’s Outer Banks by late Saturday, AIR said.