Canadian Underwriter

Insured losses from 2013 global catastrophes totals $45 billion: Swiss Re

March 26, 2014   by Canadian Underwriter

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Global insured losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters last year were $45 billion, with flooding and hail events contributing in large part, according to the latest sigma study from Swiss Re.

That’s still down $81 billion over 2012, partially because of the quieter hurricane season, Swiss Re said Wednesday.

Of the insured losses, $37 billion was from natural catastrophes, especially hail in Europe and floods across several regions.

Total economic losses for the year were $140 billion, down from $196 billion in 2012, and below the 10-year average of $190 billion. the reinsurer said.

However, there were roughly 26,000 people killed in catastrophes in 2013, up from 14,000 the prior year, Swiss Re also noted.

Many of those victims were in the Philippines, following Typhoon Haiyan in November. More than 7,500 people died or went missing, and more than 4 million were left homeless, Swiss Re said. Economic losses from that storm were also immense.

Europe saw the two most expensive natural disaster events in 2013, with severe flooding in May and June causing damage across Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Total economic losses were $16.5 billion, and the insured loss was $4.1 billion, according to Swiss Re.

Then in late July, parts of Germany and France experienced severe hailstorms. Insured losses were around $3.8 billion, according to the latest estimates, making it the largest ever loss from a hail event worldwide, Swiss Re said. However, flood protection measures in Europe in particular did help curb losses, the company said.

The economic loss from last summer’s major flooding in Alberta was $4.7 billion and the insured loss was $1.9 billion, the study also noted.

The study also suggests that rising temperatures will lead to more frequent and severe extreme weather events in the coming years, and that lack of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will contribute to more losses.

Along the U.S. Gulf coast, for example, “the economic loss potential of climate change may rise to $21.5 billion per annum by 2030,” according to Swiss Re.

However, “a number of cost-efficient adaptation measures are available, and these together could lower damages by 35%,” according to David Bresch, global head of sustainability at Swiss Re.

“Among the most attractive adaptation measures are beach nourishment, levees, roof cover retrofits and improved building codes,” he said in a statement from Swiss Re.

“Risk prevention and avoidance, and disaster risk management measures can help build resilience to climate change,” the company said.

“So too can risk transfer solutions, by providing financial relief after a disaster has struck. Risk transfer does not stand in isolation: it is an integral part of any climate adaptation strategy.”

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