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2011 natural disasters cost global economies $435 billion

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CHICAGO, Ill. – Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report, which aggregates and analyses the natural disaster perils that occurred worldwide during 2011, has been released today.

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CHICAGO, Ill. – Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report, which aggregates and analyses the natural disaster perils that occurred worldwide during 2011, has been released today.

Published by Impact Forecasting, the firm’s catastrophe model development center of excellence, the report reveals that the 12-month period was one of the most active on record for natural catastrophes, with 253 separate events that generated a record total economic loss of USD435 billion.

At USD107 billion, the total insured loss from natural catastrophes during 2011 was the second highest on record, surpassed only by the USD120 billion insured loss witnessed in 2005, of which USD90 billion resulted from the major hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. This also marks a more than 280 percent increase from insured losses seen in 2010.

The report reveals that the ten largest 2011 natural catastrophe insured losses represented 81 percent (USD86 billion) of the total insured loss figure and comprised four severe weather events, three earthquake events, two flood events, and one tropical cyclone event.

Stephen Mildenhall, Chief Executive Officer of Aon Benfield Analytics, said: “The most fatal, destructive and costly natural disasters of 2011 impacted countries in North and South America, Asia, Europe, Australasia and Oceania. Total insured losses were over two and a half times the losses from 2010 – which in turn were almost double the losses from 2009. A frequency of severity during the year tested primary insurance company retentions and their reinsurance protections. The insurance industry demonstrated its value and importance to the global economy, helping individuals, communities and businesses rebuild, and reinsurance clearly demonstrated its value to insurers. The tragic events of the year also highlighted opportunities for insurers and reinsurers to improve and expand upon how their products protect insureds through new and enhanced coverages and capacity.”

The most costly disaster from a human, insurance and reinsurance, and economic perspective, was suffered by Japan on March 11 in the form of an extreme earthquake and resultant tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people and caused an estimated USD35 billion insured loss and a USD210 billion economic loss. Meanwhile, New Zealand was struck by two separate large earthquakes in the greater Christchurch region during 2011 that produced a combined insured loss of USD15 billion. The government noted that the country has endured a USD30 billion economic loss from the two earthquakes in 2011 and a powerful tremor in September 2010.

Record insured losses were also incurred in the United States, following a series of severe weather outbreaks that resulted in an escalated number of deadly tornadoes, damaging winds and destructive hail. On August 27, Hurricane Irene became the first hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2008. Ten additional tropical cyclone landfalls occurred worldwide during 2011.

Steve Bowen, Senior Scientist and Meteorologist at Impact Forecasting, said: “While Asia and Oceania sustained the most significant natural disaster events of 2011, the United States also endured a highly active year. Extreme severe weather outbreaks highlighted the year’s activity, which was also marked by Hurricane Irene’s landfall, flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri River Basins and a prolonged drought in the Southwest. In total, a record 17 separate billion-dollar events were recorded in the U.S. in 2011. This surpasses the previous record of 9 set in 2008.”

Elsewhere, major floods were witnessed in vast areas of Southeast Asia, and also in parts of Australia, North America and South America. The most notable flood event occurred in Thailand, where prolonged flooding has generated an estimated USD45 billion economic loss. The country’s official Office of Insurance Commission projected an insured loss of nearly USD11 billion.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.