Natural disaster costs down so far in 2014: Munich Re

FRANKFURT Wed Jul 9, 2014 7:06am EDT

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Floods, storms and other natural disasters claimed more than 2,700 lives and caused around $42 billion in damage worldwide in the first half of 2014, but this was well below the first half of last year and a 10-year average, reinsurer Munich Re said on Wednesday.

The world's biggest reinsurer said landslides and flash floods in Afghanistan were the deadliest disasters, claiming more than 650 lives, while snow storms in Japan were the costliest, with insured losses of more than $2.5 billion.

Storm "Ela", which hit parts of western Europe in early June, is expected to cost insurers about 1.8 billion euros ($2.5 billion), Munich Re said. In Germany alone, insured losses from the storm came to 650 million euros.

But the $42 billion bill in the first half and the $17 billion in claims paid by insurers were below the average of the last 10 years of $95 billion and $25 billion, respectively, Munich Re said in its six-monthly review of natural disasters.

The number of deaths worldwide fell to a fraction of the 53,000 seen on average over the last 10 years and the 9,100 recorded in the first half of 2013.

"Of course, it is good news that natural catastrophes have been relatively mild so far," Torsten Jeworrek, Munich Re's board member responsible for the global reinsurance business, said in a statement.

"But we should not forget that there has been no change in the overall risk situation."

Munich Re's assessment echoed other warnings that it currently looked as though El Nino - a warming of sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean - would develop in the autumn.

El Nino affects wind patterns and can trigger both floods and drought in different parts of the globe, hitting crops and food supply. Munich Re said a strong El Nino would make it more likely that there will be La Nina system in the following year, which tends to cause an increase in hurricane activity.

Reinsurers such as Munich Re and rival Swiss Re help insurance companies to cover the cost of heavy damage claims from disasters such as floods, hurricanes or earthquakes in exchange for part of the premiums the insurers charge their customers.

Munich Re is expected to say what its own share of losses was in the first half when it publishes financial results on Aug. 7.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Jane Merriman)

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