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RAHWAY, N.J.-Catastrophes caused an estimated $7.35 billion in insured property damage last year, reports the Property Claim Services division of the American Insurance Services Group.

That made 1996 the fifth-worst year in terms of catastrophe losses, according to PCS. Hurricane Fran was the costliest single event, causing about $1.6 billion in insured property damage. Other notable catastrophes included: winter storms, such as last January's "Blizzard of '96"; wind, hail and tornadoes during the spring and summer; and an additional four hurricanes.

Forty-five states and Puerto Rico sustained insured catastrophe losses last year. North Carolina suffered the most insured property damage, estimated by PCS at $1.5 billion.