Swiss Re: Big drop in annual disaster bill

1st December 2009, Comments 0 comments

The global death toll and financial cost of catastrophes dropped sharply in 2009 after the highs of 2008.

Zurich -- The global death toll and financial cost of catastrophes dropped sharply in 2009 after reaching near record levels in 2008, initial estimates from reinsurer Swiss Re indicated Monday.

With one month of 2009 left, the total cost to society of natural and man-made disasters had reached USD 52 billion (CHF 52 billion, EUR 34.7 billion), about one fifth of the USD 267 billion in damage wrought in 2008, the reinsurer said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the global death toll fell to 12,000, just five percent of the 238,000 deaths recorded over the whole of 2008, according to initial estimates from an annual study by one of the world's biggest reinsurers.

The shift halved the bill to insurers, who were set to spend USD 21 billion for natural disasters and USD 3 billion for man-made events compared to a total of USD 50 billion in 2008, Swiss Re found.

Claims from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters during the first seven months of 2009 were nearly double the average over the last 20 years.

"We were lucky, but that may not be the case next year," said Swiss Re chief economist Thomas Hess.

"Though losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters have continuously trended upwards in the past twenty years, we still see high volatility from year to year," he explained.

Two single events, Cyclone Nargis and the earthquake in Sichuan, China, accounted for the huge majority of fatalities in 2008, which was also the second costliest year on record.

The biggest insured loss in 2009 – USD 3.54 billion -- was caused by a winter storm Klaus in France and Spain in January.

Meanwhile, the deadliest event was the earthquake in September around the Indonesian city of Padang, which left more than 1,100 people dead, according to Swiss Re's data.

People, property and businesses in developing countries tend to have far less, if any, insurance cover than their counterparts in wealthy nations.

AFP / Expatica

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