Thursday, March 29, 2012

Swiss Re’s natural catastrophes tally for 2011 reaches $116 billion in insured losses and record economic losses of $370 billion

From Swiss Re, a press release announcing the natural catastrophe issue of sigma. This is an annual tabulation of disaster losses, with great effort put into keeping the data consistent:
  • Last year saw the highest economic losses in history, at USD 370 billion
  • The insurance industry weathered 2011 soundly despite experiencing the second-largest insured losses ever, at USD 116 billion
  • 2011 also brought the highest insured earthquake losses, at USD 49 billion
  • Flooding in Thailand resulted in the highest insured losses ever for a single flood event, at USD 12 billion
Swiss Re’s latest sigma study reveals unprecedented economic losses of USD 370 billion from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2011. Despite immense insured losses of USD 116 billion (a 142% increase over the previous year) arising from record earthquake and flood losses, the insurance industry weathered the year well and played a key role in risk management and post-disaster recovery financing.

In 2011, total economic losses to society due to disasters (both insured and uninsured) reached an estimated USD 370 billion, compared to USD 226 billion in 2010. The earthquake in Japan, the largest known in terms of magnitude to have ever hit the country, accounted for 57% of 2011’s economic losses. Altogether, natural catastrophe insured losses came to around USD 110 billion, while losses from man-made disasters were around USD 6 billion, making 2011 the second-highest catastrophe loss year ever for the insurance industry.

Kurt Karl, Swiss Re’s Chief Economist, says: “Last year saw extraordinary and devastating catastrophic events. The earthquakes in Japan, New Zealand, and Turkey, as well as the floods in Australia and Thailand, were unprecedented and brought not only massive destruction but also the loss of thousands of people’s lives. Yet two-thirds of the staggering USD 370 billion in economic damage will be shouldered by corporations, governments, relief organisations, and ultimately individuals, pointing to the still widespread lack of insurance protection worldwide.”

...The floods in Australia, the country’s worst natural disaster ever in terms of losses, triggered insured claims of over USD 2 billion. However, at USD 12 billion, insured claims from the flood in Thailand are the highest ever recorded for a river water flood event. “Flood losses can be just as tremendous as earthquake and storm losses. The flooding in Thailand is a painful reminder that, given the high risk of flooding in many countries, other parts of the globe could be prone to similar or even bigger losses,” says Jens Mehlhorn, Head of Flood Perils at Swiss Re and co-author of the study.

In addition to earthquakes and floods, an unparalleled tornado season in the US caused insured catastrophe losses of over USD 25 billion. “Despite the exceptional tornadoes and Hurricane Irene, a relatively moderate hurricane season kept overall insured losses in the US lower than the record year of 2005, the year in which hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita contributed the lion’s share of that year's total global claims of USD 123 billion,” adds Bevere....

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