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2017 hurricanes cost world $330 billion, U.S hit hard

Staff Writer |
The hurricane trio of Harvey, Irma and Maria will cost the insurance industry a record amount in 2017.

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The final insurance bill for those and other natural catastrophes, including a severe earthquake in Mexico, is expected to come to $135bn – higher than ever before.

And overall losses – i.e. including uninsured losses – amounted to $330 billion, the second-highest figure ever recorded for natural disasters.

The only costlier year so far was 2011, when the Tohoku earthquake in Japan contributed to overall losses of $354bn in today’s dollars.

The overall loss figure of $330bn, for all types of natural disaster, was almost double the ten-year, inflation-adjusted average of $170bn.

Losses from weather-related natural catastrophes set a new record. Insured losses were almost three times higher than the average of $49bn.

Muncih Re's statistics identified a total of 710 relevant natural catastrophes, which was also significantly more than the average of 605.

Approximately 10,000 people lost their lives in natural disasters this year, which is a slightly higher figure to last year’s, but at least much lower than the ten-year average of 60,000.

The U.S. share of losses in 2017 was even larger than usual: 50% as compared to the long-term average of 32%. When considering North America as a whole, the share rises to 83%.

Unusually low temperatures in April caused billions in damage to European farmers since their crops had already grown robustly in an otherwise warm spring. Depending on the region and particular fruit, harvests were up to 50% smaller than usual.

Another apparent paradox is that such events may start to occur more frequently in the future as a result of climate change: plants in certain regions are beginning to sprout earlier in spring, while the threat of frost often does not diminish to the same extent, so that the risk actually increases.

Losses caused by the late frost amounted to $3.6bn (€3.3bn), of which only $650m (around €600m) was insured, given the low insurance penetration in the agricultural sector.

Some 2,700 people lost their lives following an extremely severe monsoon in South Asia.

The annual monsoon season, which brings the otherwise desperately needed rain, lasted about four weeks longer than normal in 2017.

The regions most severely affected this time were the Terai lowlands in Nepal, where almost half of the Nepalese live, as well as certain Indian provinces along the Himalayas.

In some districts, three-quarters of the territory was under water. The fact that only a small fraction of the $3.5bn in total losses was insured contributed to the humanitarian catastrophe.

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