A flooded beachhouse is seen in Dornumer Siel, Germany, on December 6, 2013 amid storm front Xaver hiting the North Sea in Germany. AFP PHOTO / DPA / INGO WAGNER /GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read INGO WAGNER/AFP/Getty Images)
(USA TODAY) -- For the first time in two decades, the world's costliest natural
disasters in 2013 were not in the USA, according to a report released
today by Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurance firm. Last year,
the most expensive weather disasters were in Europe, which included
floods in central Europe and hailstorms in Germany.
happened in the last 20 years," said Peter Hoppe, head of geo risks
research at Munich Re, which is based in Germany.
relatively quiet year was due primarily to the lack of landfalling
hurricanes, which typically contribute a large portion of the natural
catastrophe losses, said Hoppe. The North Atlantic had the fewest number
of hurricanes since 1982.
"In the main development region of
hurricanes, the air was exceptionally dry for a long period with a
simultaneously high wind shear - conditions which curb the development
of cyclones," he said.
The USA had $12.8 billion in insured losses
in 2013, far below the recent average of $30 billion per year. The
costliest disaster was the tornado outbreak in the central U.S. in May.
The loss resulting from the outbreak as a whole amounted to $3.1 billion, of which $1.8 billion was insured.
losses were in the upper range" compared to recent years, Hoppe said.
"Even though overall tornado activity was low, it was the fourth-most
expensive loss year for tornadoes in the U.S."
"The need for sound
building science research that leads to stronger, safer homes,
businesses and communities is apparent," said Tony Kuczinski, president
and CEO of Munich Reinsurance America Inc. "Nowhere in the world is the
rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North
America, where the number of weather-related loss events has almost
quintupled over the past three decades.
"And the losses from
severe thunderstorms in the USA are on the rise as well," Kuczinski
said. "This is important to note despite the comparably low number of
tornadoes this year."
Worldwide, the direct overall losses of
about $125 billion and insured losses of about $31 billion remained
below the average figures of the past 10 years ($184 billion and $56
The world's deadliest disaster in 2013 was Super Typhoon
Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines and killed more than 6,000
people. The storm did $10 billion in damage, of which only about $700
million was insured.
The 2013 typhoon season in the Pacific was
above average in terms of activity, with 31 named storms. "The
destructive power of typhoons threatens coastal regions, islands and
also inland regions throughout Southeast Asia," said Ludger Arnoldussen
of Munich Re's management board.
"Based on a natural cycle, our
analyses predict the beginning of a phase with higher typhoon activity
for the coming years," added Arnoldussen.
Overall, 20,000 people
died in natural catastrophes in 2013, significantly below the 10-year
average of 106,000. "It was a good year in terms of saving lives," said
The German hailstorm in late July - in which some of the
hailstones were bigger than tennis balls - was the insurance industry's
most expensive hail event in German history. Overall, the loss from
heavy hailstorms in both July and August in Germany totaled around $5.2
billion, of which $4.1 billion was insured.
Reinsurers such as
Munich Re offer backup policies to companies writing primary insurance
policies. Reinsurance helps spread risk, so the system can handle large
losses from natural disasters.