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Disaster deaths worse so far in 2008 than tsunami year: Munich Re

In Burma, the cyclone Nargis killed 138,000 people in early May, and in mid May an earthquake left 69,200 dead or missing in China.
by Staff Writers
Frankfurt (AFP) July 9, 2008
Natural disasters killed at least 150,000 people in the first half of this year, more than in the whole of 2004 when south-east Asia was struck by a tsunami, a top insurer said on Wednesday.

The figures came from German re-insurance group Munich Re which warned that the pattern this year fitted a trend of worsening weather-driven catastrophes, and the company called for increased efforts to fight climate change.

Specialists at the German group recorded about 400 natural catastrophes in the first half of 2008, with overall losses so far estimated at 50 billion dollars (32 billion euros).

In 2007, a total of 960 disasters caused about 82 billion dollars in damage, of which 30 billion was covered by insurance.

In Burma, the cyclone Nargis killed 138,000 people in early May, and in mid May an earthquake left 69,200 dead or missing in China, the company said in a statement.

Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said that "risk awareness and measures designed to afford protection against such catastrophes in highly exposed regions must be given high priority."

In China's Sichuan Province for example, that meant "adapting" building regulations, he added.

The first half of this year has been marked by "a large number of weather-related natural catastrophes," the statement said.

"To this extent, the year is following the long-term trend towards more weather catastrophes, which is influenced by climate change", Jeworrek noted.

In the United States, "there have never been so many tornadoes recorded in the first six months of a year," the statement added.

Billions of dollars in damage was also caused by "heavy rain and hail and subsequent flooding in Iowa and other Midwest states."

For Peter Hoeppe, head of the insurer's Geo Risks Research unit, "the battle against climate change calls for ambitious measures which, as evidenced by a new study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, are to be regarded economically as growth drivers."

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