Swiss Re Sigma report shows flooding the main driver, causing $8bn in claims


Natural catastrophes caused $17bn of insured losses in the first half of 2013, down from $21bn in H1 2012, according to Swiss Re Sigma estimates.

Total economic losses from disasters were $56bn during the period, less than the $67bn bill for H1 2012.

Flooding was a main driver for insured losses, Swiss Re said, causing around $8bn of insurance claims globally and making 2013 the second costliest calendar year for insured flood losses on Sigma records.

Around 7,000 lives were lost to natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in H1 2013.

European losses

In June, heavy rains in central and eastern Europe caused massive floods that resulted in economic losses of close to $18bn and claimed 22 lives.

The estimated $4bn cost for the insurance industry will make this the second most expensive freshwater flood event on record.

This year’s flooding in Europe has also been more expensive than the 2002 floods in the same region, which cost the industry more than $2bn ($3bn at current prices).

Rains and subsequent flooding also hit Alberta, Canada, in June, generating insured losses estimated at $2bn, the highest insured loss ever recorded in the country.

In January, Cyclone Oswald brought flood damage in Australia, amounting to $1bn in insured losses.

India, southern Africa, Indonesia and Argentina also experienced heavy rains in H1, which caused large-scale flooding and the loss of many lives.

In India, 1,150 died as a result of flooding in June and many more are still missing. This flood caused the most loss of life as a single event in the first half of 2013.

Mitigating the impact

Swiss Re head of flood risk Jens Mehlhorn said: “Flooding continues to wreak havoc across all areas of the world. No one is immune from this ever-present disaster threat.

“Sadly, without insurance, the impact of these events is severe for many. While we cannot stop future floods, we believe that preventative actions can be taken to mitigate the overall impact of extreme weather events.”

Harsh spring weather spawned deadly tornadoes in the US midwest.

A tornado outbreak in May caused the loss of 28 lives and insured claims of $1.8bn. The loss of life and property was mostly concentrated in Moore, Oklahoma, hit by a tornado rated 5, which is the highest rating on the Enhanced Fujita scale.

Another $7bn in insured catastrophe losses came from other natural catastrophes and man-made disasters across the world in the first half of 2013.

Swiss Re chief economist Kurt Karl said: “Though 2013 has so far been a below-average loss year, the severity of the ongoing North Atlantic hurricane season, and other disasters such as winter storms in Europe, could still increase insured losses for 2013 substantially.”