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Swiss Re Shows Preliminary Estimates of Cat Losses, Man-Made Disasters at $52B, of which $24B Insured

Source: Swiss Re

Posted on 30 Nov 2009

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According to initial estimates from Swiss Re's forthcoming sigma study, the total cost to society of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2009 was $52 billion versus $267 billion in 2008. The cost to insurers in 2009 was $24 billion. Insured losses were below average due to a calm US hurricane season.

In 2009, natural catastrophes will cost insurers roughly $21 billion, with man-made disasters triggering additional claims of approximately $3 billion. By way of comparison, total insured losses had soared to over $50 billion worldwide in 2008. The lower figure for 2009 resulted from the calm US hurricane season. Contrary to the US, Europe suffered above average insured losses.

Above average losses during the first half of 2009

Claims from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters during the first seven months of 2009 were nearly double the average over the last 20 years. Between January and July, five events each triggered insured losses in excess of USD 1 billion. The costliest event was winter storm Klaus, which struck France and Spain in January, and led to insured losses of $3.5 billion. A July hailstorm that hit Switzerland and Austria cost insurers another $1.25 billion. In the US, a winter storm and two tornadoes generated total insured losses of roughly $3.5 billion.

Worldwide, approximately 12 000 people were killed by catastrophes in 2009, compared to 240 000 in 2008. The death toll in 2009 was among the lowest of the last 20 years. The region most affected was Asia, where a September earthquake in Indonesia claimed more than 1 000 lives. Another 2000 people died when three typhoons struck the region between August and October.

Thomas Hess, Chief Economist of Swiss Re, commented: “In 2009, we [thankfully] saw no such event like Hurricane Katrina, which caused $71 billion in losses back in 2005. We were lucky, but that may not be the case next year. Though losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters have continuously trended upwards in the past twenty years, we still see high volatility from year to year.”

Swiss Re’s Chief Economists Thomas Hess and Clarence Wong will present the outlook for (re)insurance tomorrow at Swiss Re’s Economic Forum in London. At the same event, Matthias Weber, member of Swiss Re’s Executive Board and Head of Property & Specialty, will provide more details on the natural catastrophe topic and will give a presentation with the title: “Natural Catastrophe Insurance – Aspects of a Growing Business”.