Insurers' 2011 disaster hit seen topping $100 bln

LONDON Tue Dec 13, 2011 7:54am EST

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LONDON Dec 13 (Reuters) - Insurers look set to absorb natural catastrophe claims of over $100 billion in 2011, more than double the total for 2010, making it the second most costly natural disaster year on record, reinsurer Swiss Re said.

This year's natural catastrophe hit will still fall short of the $123 billion picked up by the insurance industry in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Martin Bisping, Swiss Re's head of non-life risk transformation, told reporters at a briefing in London.

Swiss Re, the world's second-biggest reinsurer, is due to publish detailed natural catastrophe loss estimates for 2011 on Thursday, a spokesman for the company said.

This year's surge in catastrophe claims reflects a spate of major natural disasters including the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, tornadoes in the U.S., and heavy flooding in Australia and Thailand.

The increase in claims has mopped up some of the insurance industry's spare capital, relieving competitive pressure and supporting insurance and reinsurance prices after several years of declines, insurers and brokers have said.

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