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Insured losses from global natural catastrophes totaled $15 billion in the first half of 2019, below the long-term average of $18 billion and down from $23 billion in the same period of 2018, according to a report released Tuesday by Munich Reinsurance Co.
Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in the U.S. Midwest in May produced insured losses of around $2.5 billion, making this event the costliest insured catastrophe loss in the first half of this year, Munich Re said.
Two further tornado/thunderstorm events in the U.S., flooding in Australia in January and February, and winter storm Eberhard in Europe rounded out the top five most costly insured catastrophes in the first half of the year, according to Munich Re’s review.
A total of 370 loss events around the world produced overall economic losses of $42 billion in the first half of 2019, lower than the 30-year average of $69 billion on an inflation-adjusted basis, Munich Re said in a statement.
This figure excludes losses from severe floods in southeast China in June that reportedly caused billions of dollars in damage.
For many events, the insured loss total was small due to low insurance penetration in many of the affected countries, according to the review.
Munich Re said around 4,200 people died in natural disasters in the first half of 2019, relatively unchanged from around 4,300 in the year-ago period.
“The trend towards fewer casualties has continued, thanks to more effective protection measures,” Munich Re said in the statement.
Despite the very active tornado season in the U.S., overall losses from convective storms during the first half of 2019 totaled nearly $7.5 billion, well below the $10 billion average over the past decade, Munich Re said in a statement.
A 10-day heat wave and severe thunderstorms with hail produced heavy losses in Europe in June, Munich Re noted.
An event on June 10 hit Germany and neighboring countries, with the greater Munich area particularly affected, and over 100,000 claims were filed for damage to vehicles and buildings, according to the Association of German Insurers.
The overall loss throughout Europe totaled in excess of €900 million ($1 billion), of which more than 75% was insured due to high insurance density for hail, Munich Re said.
“A number of scientific studies indicate that heatwaves are increasing due to climate change, and hailstorms as well according to the most recent studies. In view of the loss potentials and the increase in exposed assets, it is very important that insurers are aware of these changes,” Ernest Rauch, chief climate and geoscientist at Munich Re, said in the statement.
Elsewhere, the Asia-Pacific region saw overall losses of $16 billion in the first half of 2019, half the long-term average of $33 billion.
Severe flooding in Queensland, Australia, was the costliest insured event, producing overall losses of almost $2 billion, of which just under $1 billion was insured, Munich Re noted.
Three of the five costliest economic disasters in the first half of 2019 affected emerging and developing countries, including a flood event in Iran that resulted in overall losses of $2.5 billion; and Cyclone Fani in India and Bangladesh in May, which caused storm and flood losses of $2.2 billion.
In March, Cyclone Idai also caused overall losses in Mozambique and neighboring countries of around $2 billion.
It is “essential” to take more effective preventive measures both in emerging and industrialized countries, Mr. Rauch said in the statement.
Insurer Old Mutual Zimbabwe said that it is likely to face increased claims related to cyclone Idai after the storm devastated the country's South Eastern parts including several businesses, The Herald reported. The storm forced big companies and small and medium-sized enterprises including several agricultural and timber firms in Manicaland Province to close shop or reduce operations.