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Japan quake makes 2011 costliest year: Munich Re
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) July 12, 2011

N.Korea says storm left casualties, destroyed homes
Seoul (AFP) July 12, 2011 - A tropical storm that hit the Korean peninsula late last month washed away homes, factories and roads and caused unspecified casualties, the official news agency said Tuesday.

Heavy rain and strong winds brought by Tropical Storm Meari that hit the North from June 25-27 left some 160 homes and more than 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of farmland destroyed or submerged across the country, it said.

Several areas including the west coast regions saw casualties, it said without elaborating.

"Not a small number of production plants, public buildings, roads and riverbanks have been destroyed or submerged," the agency said.

Reconstruction efforts were under way in regions including South and North Hwanghae provinces in the west and Kangwon province on the east, it said.

It was unclear why it took the agency some long to report the damage.

After decades of deforestation, North Korea is particularly vulnerable to flooding. In 2007 it reported at least 600 dead or missing from devastating floods.

Meari left nine dead in South Korea and destroyed scores of homes, roads and farms across the country.

Japan's earthquake in March is set to make 2011 the costliest year to date for natural disasters, reinsurer Munich Re said on Tuesday, although the number of deaths globally is relatively low so far.

Total global losses from natural disasters for the first six months alone were $265 billion, easily exceeding the $220 billion recorded for the whole of 2005, previously the most expensive year to date, the German firm said.

The economic loss for the first half of 2011 was more than five times higher than the average of the past 10 years, Munich Re said, and more than double the total for 2010 of $130 billion.

Moreover, first-half losses are generally lower than second-half losses, which are often affected by hurricanes in the north Atlantic and typhoons in the northwest Pacific, Munich Re added.

Not all the damage will be covered by insurance companies however, with "insured losses" in the first six months some $60 billion, nearly five times the average since 2001.

"It is very rare for such an extreme accumulation of natural hazard events to be encountered," Munich Re, which is the world's top reinsurer, said in a statement.

The 9.0-magnitude quake on March 11, the strongest ever registered in Japan, caused losses of 210 billion euros, making it the costliest natural catastrophe on record, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005.

Katrina, which pummelled the southern United States in August and caused devastating flooding that swallowed 80 percent of New Orleans, caused $125 billion worth of damage.

Insured losses from Katrina were much higher at $62 billion, however, more than double the $30-billion bill for the Japanese quake, which also knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, leaking radiation.

The quake was also the biggest catastrophe to occur in the first half of 2011 in human terms.

At least 15,500 people died and and thousands are still missing after the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, which devastated entire cities along the northeast coast of Japan, Munich Re said.

In terms of the human cost overall, however, 2011 is relatively benign -- so far.

Natural disasters killed 19,380 people in the first six months, compared to 230,300 in 2010.

In January 2010 an earthquake in Haiti killed some 225,000 people, while more than 50,000 perished in heatwaves and forest fires in Russia. Thousands also died in earthquakes and floods in China and Pakistan.

The total number of loss-relevant natural events in the first six months of 2011 was 355, somewhat below the average for the previous 10 years of 390.

The next costliest natural disaster in the first half of 2011 was a severe earthquake that shook Christchurch, New Zealand, in February, causing $20 billion in damage and killing 181 people, Munich Re said.

Severe storms in the southern and midwest United States in April and May killed 520 people and caused $14.5 billion in damages, with insured losses around $10 billion.

Floods in Queensland in northeast Australia in December and January caused $7.3 billion in damage, $2.6 billion of it insured, and killed 35 people.

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China warehouse fire kills 12
Beijing (AFP) July 12, 2011 - A fierce blaze ripped through a warehouse in central China on Tuesday killing 12 people -- including three children -- who were trapped inside, state media and the local fire brigade said.

Scores of people managed to flee the building after the fire broke out at an industrial park in Hubei province's Wuhan city, but some remained stuck inside, the official Xinhua news agency said.

A spokesman for the city's fire brigade, who refused to be named, told AFP the fire had now been put out. "At present, 12 people have died," he said.

Firefighters rescued eight people from the blaze, which tore through more than 1,000 square metres (10,760 square feet) of the warehouse, the Xinhua report said.

The fire is believed to have been triggered by a short circuit on the first floor of the warehouse, which was rented out by two companies, it added.

The building had been used for work purposes and as temporary dorms for some employees and their relatives, which violates fire prevention rules, the report said.

Deadly blazes are common in China and are typically blamed on lax observation and enforcement of fire-safety measures.

Anxious to quell public anger over repeated fire disasters, China's government routinely orders nationwide safety crackdowns after particularly deadly blazes, but such incidents continue to occur.

In April, 17 poor migrants died when a fire swept through an illegally constructed building in Beijing.

Last November, a fire engulfed a high-rise apartment building in Shanghai, leaving 58 people dead.

A preliminary investigation blamed that inferno on careless work by unlicensed welders who ignited nylon netting swathing the building, which was being renovated to improve energy efficiency.

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Two injured in second China escalator accident
Beijing (AFP) July 11, 2011
At least two people were injured in an escalator accident at a subway station in Shenzhen in China, state media said Monday, days after a 13-year-old boy died in a similar accident in Beijing. The two were taken to hospital but were not critically injured in the accident Sunday night in the southern city, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing a spokesperson for the company that r ... read more

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