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Munich Re sees '08 catastrophe costs at $200 bln

FRANKFURT, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The total costs associated with natural catastrophes in 2008 will be about $200 billion euros, the third highest on record, according to estimates from Muenchener Rueckversicherung MUVGn.DE published on Monday.

The world’s biggest reinsurer by revenues said in an excerpt of its annual report on natural catastrophes that overall losses were more than double those of the previous year and were below only the record level of $232 billion seen in 2005 and losses seen in 1995, the year of the earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

The two latter years were adjusted for inflation.

Insured losses, those losses which insurers and reinsurers will have to cover, are estimated having risen about 50 percent from 2007 to $45 billion, just below the $50 billion the insurance industry paid out in 2005.

In terms of insured losses, Hurricane Ike was the most expensive individual event in 2008, with insured losses estimated at $15 billion (excluding claims covered under the National Flood Insurance Program) and an overall cost of around $30 billion.

In terms of human life, Asia continued to be the continent affected by the worst human catastrophes, with Cyclone Nargis costing at least 200,000 lives along with the at least 70,000 who died as a result of the earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Munich Re said that 2008 continued the long-term trend of increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes which will result in greater and greater losses.

“In the international debate, we as a company press for effective and binding rules on CO2 emissions, so that climate change is curbed and future generations do not have to live with weather scenarios that are difficult to control,” Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek said in a statement. (Reporting by Tyler Sitte; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)