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FRANKFURT Jan 7 Natural catastrophes like
floods and storms claimed more than 20,000 lives and caused
around $125 billion in damage worldwide in 2013, well below the
average of the last decade, reinsurer Munich Re said
The world's largest reinsurer said Supertyphoon Haiyan,
which struck the Philippines, China and Vietnam in November, was
probably the strongest tropical storm ever to make landfall and
was last year's deadliest natural event.
The storm killed more than 6,000 people and underscored the
need for better planning to protect people in emerging
countries, Munich Re said in its annual review of natural
In contrast, planning and preparation helped limit the
impact of winter storms in Europe at the end of last year.
"The losses remained comparatively low," said Torsten
Jeworrek, Munich Re's board member in charge of reinsurance.
Flooding in central Europe in May and June topped the list
of global economic damage last year at more than $15 billion,
with the insurance industry paying out $3 billion in claims.
The most costly event for insurers last year was a set of
hailstorms that struck southern Germany in July, damaging
hundreds of thousands of cars and buildings and prompting $3.7
billion in insurance payouts.
Both the $125 billion global economic damage caused by
natural catastrophes last year and the $31 billion in claims
paid by insurers were below the average of the last 10 years of
$184 billion and $56 billion, respectively, Munich Re said.
The number of deaths worldwide was also below the 106,000
seen on average over the last 10 years.
The insurance industry benefited from the lowest number of
hurricanes in the North Atlantic since 1982, with not a single
storm of hurricane strength reaching the U.S. mainland.
Munich Re said the below average number of storms was due to
unpredictable short-term effects and that the expectation of
higher hurricane activity in the future remained unchanged.
The absence of big payouts for hurricanes is helping to
erode resinsurers' pricing power, as insurance company clients
push for cheaper terms in 2014.
Munich Re said separately that the Arctic air currently
blasting the United States, forcing businesses and schools to
close and cancelling thousands of flights, had the potential to
cause billions of dollars in damage but that it was too early
The reinsurer's figures on the scale of natural disasters in
2013 chimed with those from rival Swiss Re, which
last month estimated that insurance industry damage claims from
natural disasters totalled $38 billion, down from $75 billion in
(Reporting by Jonathan Gould; Editing by Mark Potter)