Swiss Re Reports 2013 Disaster Losses at $130 Billion; $44 Billion Insured

December 18, 2013

According to preliminary estimates from Swiss Re’s latest sigma report, insured losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2013 are estimated to be around $44 billion, down from $81 billion in 2012. Insured losses from natural catastrophes are at least $38 billion, down from $75 billion, while man-made disasters generated the remaining $6 billion of insured claims this year, little changed from 2012.

Overall economic losses from catastrophic events in 2013 reached $130 billion, compared with $196 billion in 2012. The total loss of life climbed to around 25,000 from 14,000 last year.

Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November, with some of the strongest winds ever recorded, caused the greatest loss of life – more than 7,000 lives – according to the report, “the highest loss of life from a single event in 2013. Despite the devastation wreaked, insured losses are expected to be modest as insurance penetration is low in the country.”

Floods were the main “causes extensive damage across all continents,” Swiss Re said. “The flooding that affected large areas of central and eastern Europe in June 2013 created overall losses of $18 billion, with insured losses estimated at $4 billion.

“The insured losses were higher than the 2002 floods in the same region which cost the industry over $2 billion ($3 billion at current prices). The June flooding ranks as the second most expensive fresh water flood event on sigma records, but is a distant second to the 2011 Thailand flood which led to insured claims of over $16 billion.

“Also in June, rain-induced flooding hit Alberta, Canada, causing insured losses of nearly $2 billion, the highest ever recorded in the country for any disaster. There were also heavy rains and floods in Australia, India, China, Indonesia, Southern Africa and Argentina this year.

“In addition to floods, Europe suffered a number of other severe weather events, including hail and windstorms. Hailstorm Andreas battered Germany and France in July, resulting in insured losses of $3 billion. Later in the year, Windstorm Christian in central and northern Europe is estimated to have caused more than $1 billion in insured claims. The more recent Windstorm Xaver in the same region has triggered additional insured losses of around $1 billion.”

Swiss Re’s Chief Economist Kurt Karl commented: “In many parts of the world, insurance penetration remains low. Together with preventative measures, insurance can lessen the destructive impact and financial burden that large catastrophic events can have on people’s lives. It can also help accelerate reconstruction efforts, as we have seen in areas where insurance penetration is higher.”

Harsh spring and autumn weather spawned severe thunderstorms and deadly tornadoes in the US, which brought devastation of properties and hefty losses to the insurance industry. However, the 2013 North Atlantic hurricane season was benign.

Source: Swiss Re

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