Swiss Re says 2008 insured losses $50 bln for industry

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss Re said insured losses soared to $50 billion for the industry in 2008, making it the second costliest year ever.

Natural catastrophes accounted for $43 billion of the insured losses and man-made disasters made up the remaining $7 billion, according to initial estimates from a forthcoming study by the world’s second-biggest reinsurer.

Zurich-based Swiss Re said Hurricane Ike alone cost the industry $20 billion. That and other storms --including Hurricane Gustav at $4 billion -- cost insurers $39 billion in property, motor, offshore damage and flood claims.

In Europe, winter storm Emma caused damages of $1.4 billion, much less than the $6 billion loss from winter storm Kyrill in 2007.

The costliest year to date for the industry was 2005, when Hurricane Katrina caused insured losses of $66 billion, previous Swiss Re data show.

Among man-made disasters, explosions and major fires resulted in losses of $4.8 billion in 2008.

Swiss Re said more than 238,000 people died as a result of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2008, the fourth-largest number of deaths in a year since 1970.

Tropical cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in May, killed 138,400 people, while a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that shook China’s Sichuan region later the same month killed 87,400 people and left more than 10 million homeless. Most of the losses from those two events were not insured, the reinsurer said.

Reporting by Jason Rhodes, Emma Thomasson and Catherine Evans; Editing by David Holmes and Simon Jessop