Disastrous year


The economic cost of natural and
man-made disasters jumped threefold to $218-billion in 2010 from $68-billion
the previous year, with earthquakes the main cause of death and destruction,
insurer Swiss Reinsurance Co. said.

Some 304,000 people died in
disasters last year, a sharp rise from 15,000 in 2009.

Haiti’s earthquake alone claimed
222,000 lives, while almost 56,000 people were killed by Russia’s summer heat
wave and over 6,200 people died from floods in China and Pakistan.

The Zurich-based company said
insurers bore $43-billion of the cost of disasters last year, a 60 per cent
year-on-year increase.

The earthquakes in Chile and New
Zealand had insured losses of over $12-billion, it said.

Eight other disasters, including
storms in the United States, Germany, France and Australia cost insurers more
than $1-billion last year.

The only man-made catastrophe to
make the costliest top ten was the Deepwater Horizon explosion that caused a
massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In its annual report, Swiss Re
predicted that losses from recent quakes in New Zealand and Japan will make
2011 another expensive year for insurers.

“Although no long-term trend of
increasing global earthquake activity has emerged, the number of fatalities and
insured losses from earthquakes are on the rise,” Balz Grollimund, one of the
report’s authors, was quoted as saying. “The main reasons are population
growth, the higher number of people living in urban areas as well as rising
wealth and rapidly increasing exposures.”

With his industry’s interests in
mind, Swiss Re’s chief economist Thomas Hess also noted that many developing
countries have poor disaster insurance coverage.

Some of the new-found wealth
in countries like China should be used to improve emergency preparedness and
insurance protection against extreme weather events such as flooding, he said.