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Global Disaster Bill Declines In 2006 Says Swiss Re

Only three events caused damage that ran into the billions of dollars -- two tornadoes in the United States in April (1.8 and 1.3 billion dollars) and typhoon Shanshan (effects of, pictured) in Japan in September (1.02 billion dollars), Swiss Re said.
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) March 08, 2007
Natural and man-made disasters caused a relatively light 48.8 billion dollars (37.2 billion euros) in economic losses last year, one-third of which was covered by insurance, the reinsurer Swiss Re said Thursday. The world's largest reinsurance firm said in a study that overall economic losses were below the long-term trend. Property insurers suffered their third lowest losses for the past 20 years, as insurance firms as a whole paid out 15.9 billion dollars in catastrophe- related claims in 2006.

In comparison, average annual insurance payouts for catastophes in 2000 to 2005 amounted to 30.4 billion dollars, a spokeswoman for Swiss Re told AFP.

Insurance companies have adjusted their modelling to account for steeper losses expected in the future, partly due to global warming, the study underlined.

The pattern of natural catastrophes differed from the two previous years by affecting mainly developing countries where property values are low, Swiss Re said. 2006 was also marked by a calm hurricane season in the Caribbean basin.

Insurance cover in developing nations is also lower, lowering the cost to insurers, it added.

Natural disasters accounted for 11.8 billion dollars of the insured losses, in 2006 while man-made disasters were valued at around 4.4 billion dollars.

Only three events caused damage that ran into the billions of dollars -- two tornadoes in the United States in April (1.8 and 1.3 billion dollars) and typhoon Shanshan in Japan in September (1.02 billion dollars), Swiss Re said.

The three other most costly disasters were storms and floods in the United States.

The worst catastophes in terms of their human toll were the earthquake in Indonesia in May 2006 with 5,778 victims (dead or missing), the summer heatwave in Europe, with an estimated 1,900 victims, and the impact of typhoon Durian in the Philippines and Vietnam in November (1,363 victims).

Swiss Re also listed am estimated 1,333 victims due to an extreme cold snap in January 2006 in eastern Europe.

Despite the decline observed last year, since 1989 there has been an unprecedented pattern of peaks in annual insured losses due to weather-related catastrophes alone, data in the study showed.

Swiss Re's data since 1970 has now been revised to take into account flood losses in the United States covered by the US National Flood Insurance Programme.

That has forced up the estimate of the cost of hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans in 2005, to 66 billion dollars compared to 49 billion dollars beforehand.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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