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Published July 10, 2014 04:13 PM

2014 Natural Disaster Damage and Death Toll Well Below Average

Extreme weather events and other natural disasters claimed the lives of more than 2,700 people and caused around US $42 billion in damage worldwide in the first half of 2014, but this was well below the first half of last year and a 10-year average, according to new research from reinsurer Munich Re.

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However, the briefing report warns that towards the end of the year the natural climate phenomenon El NiƱo may impact regions differently in terms of the number and intensity of weather extremes.

During the first half of the year, 2,700 people died as a result of natural catastrophes, which was much lower than is normal during the first six months of a year (10-year average: 53,000). There were around 490 loss-relevant natural catastrophes. The highest economic losses arose in the USA (35%), followed by Europe and Asia (30% each).

"Of course, it is good news that natural catastrophes have been relatively mild so far", said Torsten Jeworrek, Munich Re's Board member responsible for global reinsurance business. "But we should not forget that there has been no change in the overall risk situation.

"Loss minimisation measures must remain at the forefront of our considerations. They make absolute sense from a macroeconomic perspective, as lower subsequent losses mean that they mostly generate savings of several times the investment amount. And they protect human lives."

The effect of loss susceptibility on claims was clearly demonstrated by two snowstorms in Japan. These storms in February, which hit Tokyo and central Japan in particular, brought overall losses of around US$ 5bn and insured losses of more than US$ 2.5bn, and were the most costly natural catastrophe worldwide in the first half of the year. Snowfalls of up to a metre are very unusual in the affected provinces in Japan, though they would cause very few problems in other countries. There were numerous accidents, and the roofs of many halls and greenhouses collapsed under the weight of the snow.

The record winter in North America also caused significant losses, with extremely cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls over a longer period in many parts of the USA and Canada. The losses from various blizzards totalled around US$ 3.4bn. The most costly snowstorm was in the first week of January: losses for this storm alone totalled US$ 2.5bn, of which US$ 1.7bn was insured.

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