Insured losses for the first half of 2011 were almost five times greater than the average since 2001, says Munich Re.
The losses of around US$60bn included a total number of loss-relevant natural events in the first six months of 2011 of 355, somewhat below the average of 390 for the previous ten years.
Munich Re said an “exceptional accumulation” of severe natural catastrophes has made 2011 the highest-ever loss year on record with approximately $265bn in economic losses up to the end of June.
This compares to 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, which cost $220bn in economic terms.
Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek said: “We were not surprised by any of the events when seen as single events, since they were within the range of what our risk models led us to expect. The accumulation of so many severe events of this type in such a short period is unusual, but is also considered in our scenario calculations.”
The 11 March Japan earthquake was the costliest single event, with an approximate economic bill of $210bn. Insured losses from the event cost the industry $30bn.
Economic losses from the 6.3 magnitude Christchurch earthquake on 22 February were particularly high, amounting to approximately $20bn, of which more than $10bn was insured.
Munich Re said the losses were attributable to ground motion amplified by a nearby extinct volcano and ground deformation. In addition, buildings damaged in the original September 2010 quake have been completely destroyed by tremors.
Queensland experienced severe flood activity at the end of 2010 which continued well into January 2011. Thousands of homes and businesses were flooded and open-pit mines had to be temporarily closed. The overall economic losses of the several events came to approx. $7bn, of which $2.5bn was insured.
Queensland also suffered its first Force 5 (maximum-strength) storm in nearly 100 years when Cyclone Yasi made landfall on 3 February, bringing wind speeds of over 280 km/h. Although smaller localities were primarily affected by the windstorm, the losses were substantial. The agricultural sector was badly hit, this being a region with large banana plantations. However, the major cities of Cairns and Townsville for the most part escaped significant damage. The overall economic losses amounted to around US$ 2bn, of which approximately half was insured.
The southern and Midwest US states were hit by several exceptionally severe series of tornadoes in April and May. The La Niña affected season suffered record levels of activity with approximately 1600 storms up to the end of June. In the case of the two most severe series of tornadoes in the season, which occurred at the end of April and in the third week of May, the overall economic losses amounted to approx. $15bn, with insured losses an estimated $10bn.