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Insured losses from natural catastrophes totaled $80 billion in 2018, well above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years of $41 billion but just over half of the record $140 billion shouldered by the industry in 2017, according to a report released Tuesday by Munich Reinsurance Co.
Overall economic losses totaled $160 billion, again above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years which was $140 billion but under half the $350 billion in total losses seen in 2017, the reinsurer said.
The most costly events were the Camp Fire in Northern California, which caused insured losses of $12.5 billion, and Hurricane Michael with insured losses of $10 billion, the report said.
California “saw the most damaging wildfires in U.S. history,” Munich Re said, including the November Camp Fire, which “more or less completely destroyed the small town of Paradise,” and the Woolsey Fire, which caused approximately $4 billion in insured losses near Los Angeles.
In total, wildfires in California caused $18 billion in insured losses.
“Our data shows that the losses from wildfires in California have risen dramatically in recent years,” Ernst Rauch, Munich-based head of climate and geosciences at Munich Re, said in a statement released with the report.
Hurricanes in the U.S. cause one-fifth of overall losses worldwide, Munich Re said, adding that worldwide cyclones caused above-average overall losses of $56 billion in 2018, about half of which are insured.
The typhoon season saw a total of seven storms hit or skirt the islands of Japan in 2018. Five of the storms made landfall or came very close to land with typhoon strength and brought with them torrential rainfall, Munich Re said.
The most severe storm was Typhoon Jebi with insured losses of around $9 billion, making it one of the costliest typhoons in Japan’s history, Munich Re said.
“2018 saw several major natural catastrophes with high insured losses,” Torsten Jeworrek, member of Munich Re’s board of management, said in the statement. “These included the unusual phenomenon of severe tropical cyclones occurring both in the U.S. and Japan while autumn wildfires devastated parts of California.”
Claims activity from Hurricane Michael, which came ashore Oct. 10 as a Category 4 storm, is in full swing almost two weeks later, industry sources said.