$24bn insured loss is less than half 2008 figure says Swiss Re Sigma study

Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2009 caused a total loss of $52bn versus $267bn in 2008.

The cost to insurers in 2009 was $24bn. Insured losses were below average due to a calm US hurricane season.

In 2009, natural catastrophes will cost insurers roughly $21bn, with man-made disasters triggering additional claims of approximately $3bn.

By way of comparison, total insured losses had soared to over $50bn worldwide in 2008. The lower figure for 2009 resulted from the calm US hurricane season. Contrary to the US, Europe suffered above average insured losses.

Claims from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters during the first seven months of 2009 were nearly double the average over the last 20 years. Between January and July, five events each triggered insured losses in excess of $1bn. The costliest event was winter storm Klaus, which struck France and Spain in January, and led to insured losses of $3.5bn. A July hailstorm that hit Switzerland and Austria cost insurers another $1.25bn. In the US, a winter storm and two tornadoes generated total insured losses of roughly $3.5bn.

Worldwide, approximately 12 000 people were killed by catastrophes in 2009, compared to 240 000 in 2008. The death toll in 2009 was among the lowest of the last 20 years. The region most affected was Asia, where a September earthquake in Indonesia claimed more than 1 000 lives. Another 2 000 people died when three typhoons struck the region between August and October.

Thomas Hess, Chief Economist of Swiss Re, commented: “In 2009, we thankfully saw no such event like Hurricane Katrina, which caused $71bn in losses back in 2005. We were lucky, but that may not be the case next year. Though losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters have continuously trended upwards in the past 20 years, we still see high volatility from year to year.”