An earthquake in Sichuan, a cyclone in Myanmar, wild tornadoes and flooding in the United States--the first six months of 2008 have proven to be among the deadliest and costliest when it comes to natural catastrophes, according to research from Munich Re's Geo Risks Research Group.
From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2008, more than 150,000 people globally died in natural catastrophes--a number greater than the deaths recorded for each year since 2004, the year of the tsunami in South Asia. Overall losses for this six-month period total approximately $50 billion, of which the insurance industry covered about $13 billion.
Researchers analyzed the nearly 400 natural catastrophes occurring in the first half of 2008 to generate these figures. Munich Re noted that by comparison, in the year 2007, 960 natural catastrophes generated $82 billion in losses, with insured losses totaling $30 billion. The six month's insured losses in 2008 of $13 billion far exceed the yearly average over the last 10 years.
While the Sichuan earthquake alone accounted for $20 billion in losses, a large number of weather extremes in the United States also contributed to the $50 billion overall total. According to Munich Re, the floods and severe storms on the Mississippi River and elsewhere in June account for losses of $10 billion.
When it comes to insured losses, tornadoes and severe storms in the United States in February accounted for $955 million. Never have so many tornados been recorded in the first six months of any year in U.S. history. Other costly disasters include winter storms in China that generated $10 billion in overall losses, $1.6 billion of which was insured, and Europe's winter storm Emma that accounted for $1.5 billion in insured losses.
Munich Re found that the first half of the year was characterized by a large number of weather-related natural catastrophes. Of the 400 catastrophes, 300 were attributed to weather extremes.
According to the research, it appears that 2008 is so far following the trend in recent years toward more weather catastrophes influenced by climate change. Munich Re's researchers also tressed that the Sichuan and Myanmar tragedies highlighted the need for governments in such highly exposed regions to give higher priority to the risk awareness and measures designed to guard against disaster. Adapting stricter building regulations in these regions could save many human lives, the researchers opined.
September 1, 2008
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