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Lives lost to nat cats rise 78% in 2013

Estimated insured losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2013 have fallen significantly, but loss of life has almost doubled.

Estimated insured losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2013 have fallen significantly, but loss of life has almost doubled.

According to the latest Swiss Re Sigma studies, insured losses are US$44 billion, a drop from US$81 billion in 2012. Insured losses from natural catastrophes are at least US$38 billion, down from US$75 billion, while man-made disasters generated the remaining US$6 billion of insured claims this year, roughly the same as 2012.

Despite huge loss of life, 2013 was in many ways a benign year for insurers

Despite huge loss of life, 2013 was in many ways a benign year for insurers (click to enlarge)

Overall economic losses from this year’s catastrophic events reached US$130 billion, compared with US$196 billion in 2012. The total loss of life climbed to around 25 000 from 14 000 last year.

High loss of life from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

In November, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with some of the strongest winds ever recorded, heavy rains and storm surges. Haiyan has claimed more than 7 000 lives, which is the highest loss of life from a single event in 2013. Despite the devastation wreaked, insured losses are expected to be modest as insurance penetration is low in the Philippines.

Flooding causes extensive damage across all continents

The flooding that affected large areas of central and eastern Europe in June 2013 generated overall losses of US$18 billion, with insured losses estimated at $US4 billion. The insured losses were higher than the 2002 floods in the same region which cost the industry over US$2 billion (US$3 billion at current prices). The June flooding ranks as the second most expensive fresh water flood event since Swiss Re began collecting its Sigma records, but is a distant second to the 2011 Thailand flood which led to insured claims of over US$16 billion.

Also in June, rain-induced flooding hit Alberta, Canada, causing insured losses of nearly US$2 billion, the highest ever recorded in the country. for any disaster. There were also heavy rains and floods in Australia, India, China, Indonesia, Southern Africa and Argentina this year.

European severe weather events feature prominently

In addition to floods, Europe suffered a number of other severe weather events, including hail and windstorms. Hailstorm Andreas battered Germany and France in July, resulting in insured losses of US$3 billion. Later in the year, Windstorm Christian in central and northern Europe is estimated to have caused more than US$1 billion in insured claims. The more recent Windstorm Xaver in the same region has triggered additional insured losses of around US$ 1 billion.

Kurt Karl, Chief Economist at Swiss Re, said in many parts of the world, insurance penetration remains low.

“Together with preventative measures, insurance can lessen the destructive impact and financial burden that large catastrophic events can have on people’s lives. It can also help accelerate reconstruction efforts, as we have seen in areas where insurance penetration is higher.”

Harsh spring and autumn weather spawned severe thunderstorms and deadly tornadoes in the US, which brought devastation of properties and hefty losses to the insurance industry. However, the 2013 North Atlantic hurricane season was benign.

About Ralph Savage (138 Articles)
Insurance and legal journalist Ralph Savage has written extensively for the financial and professional services sectors, most notably as News Editor of Post Magazine. He ghost writes regularly on behalf of FTSE 250 CEOs, leading counsel and senior professionals including solicitors, insurers, accountants and brokers.

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