2011 second most expensive for catastrophe loss: SwissRe

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This year will rank as the second most expensive in history for catastrophic insurance losses, with more than $70 billion (50.5 billion euros) already incurred in charges, reinsurer SwissRe said on Friday.

"In terms of catastrophe claims, 2011 is already the second costliest year in history for the insurance industry," SwissRe chief economist Thomas Hess said in a statement.

"Additional claims from the ongoing US hurricane season or expensive winter storms in Europe have the potential to bring figures for the full year even closer to the record claims of 120 billion experience in 2005," he said.

In the statement, insurance giant SwissRe said that so far this year, claims for natural catastrophes reached $67 billion, compared to $27 billion in 2010, while man-made catastrophes cost insurers an additional $3.0 billion, it said.

The figure, it said, was exceeded only in 2005, "when total catastrophe claims amounted to 120 billion dollars, with hurricane Katrina, Wilma and Rita causing claims of over 90 billion dollars."

SwissRe said that total losses for insured and uninsured during the first six months of 2011 totalled $278 billion, with 26,000 victims, mostly in Japan following the March tsunami and earthquake.

During the same period in 2010, however, total losses reached $166 billion, even though more than 280,000 people died in the Haiti earthquake.

The March 11 Tohoku earthquake ranks as the most expensive natural catastrophe for insurers this year, generating $30 billion in claims, while total losses are evaluated at 210 billion, it said.

The February 22 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand ranked second, with $9.0-12.0 billion in claims, followed by the April storms and tornadoes in Alabama and surrounding states, with insured loss estimated at $6.6 billion, it said.

In terms of victims, the Japan earthquake killed slightly more than 20,000 people, SwissRe said, followed by January floods in Brazil, which took over 900 lives.

© 2011 AFP

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