ZURICH: Natural and man-made disasters caused $140bn (¤101bn) of damage worldwide last year, according to a study released yesterday by reinsurance group Swiss Re.
In its annual survey of disaster damage, Swiss Re noted that the loss total was down from the $196bn recorded in 2012, the year that Hurricane Sandy battered the United States.
Of the $140bn recorded in 2013, insured losses accounted for $45bn.
The most expensive disaster for insurers was the massive flooding in central and eastern Europe in May and June last year, with Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland hardest hit.
Total economic losses in the floods hit $16.5bn, of which $4.1bn was covered by insurers.
In July, parts of France and Germany were struck by severe hailstorms, causing economic losses of $4.8bn.
The damage in Germany alone generated most of the entire insured loss of $3.8bn — the largest ever figure for a hailstorm worldwide, Swiss Re said.
Floods in Canada in June caused losses of $4.7bn, of which $1.9bn was insured.
The next costliest disaster for the insurance sector was the wave of thunderstorms and tornadoes in the United States — including a freak twister in Oklahoma — which left insured losses of $1.8 billion and inflicted $3bn in overall economic damage.
While rich countries saw the most expensive single disasters in terms of insurance claims — the norm, given their wealthier economies and extensive insurance penetration — it was the developing world that continued to bear the brunt of lives lost and overall economic damage.
The vast majority of the 26,000 disaster deaths last year — up from 14,000 in 2012 — were in developing nations.
Asia, where like other poor regions only a small percentage of the population has insurance, was hardest hit.
Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November brought some of the strongest winds ever recorded, coupled with heavy rains and storm surge.
Some 7,500 died or went missing, and over four million were left homeless.
The second biggest humanitarian disaster was the June flooding in India, which claimed 6,000 lives.