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Insured losses from major natural catastrophes totaled about $78 billion in 2020, according to a report Tuesday from Willis Re, the reinsurance business of Willis Towers Watson PLC.
That was the fourth-largest total since 2011 and about 17% higher than the 10-year average of $66.5 billion, according to report data.
Last year saw the most active North Atlantic hurricane season ever recorded, reaching 30 named storms. Few made landfall, however, and none produced a double-digit, billion-dollar blockbuster loss. Hurricane Laura was the largest weather-related loss event at an estimated insured loss of $8 billion to $9 billion.
“A record number of North Atlantic hurricanes formed in 2020, but landfalls did not occur in great numbers or touch areas with highly concentrated insured exposures,” Vaughn Jensen, executive vice president, catastrophe analytics, at Willis Re North America, said in a statement issued with the report.
“If they had, the story of 2020 would have been dramatically different. However, the sheer number of storms, and the continued incidence of billion-dollar wildfires in the U.S. and elsewhere, plus the severity of the Iowa derecho event, gives the industry cause to consider new emerging trends.”
In Europe, windstorm Ciara (Sabine) hit more than 10 countries and caused nearly $2 billion of insured losses.
In Asia, Tropical Cyclone Haishen caused less than $1 billion of insured losses, substantially less than the multi-billion-dollar typhoon losses of 2019.
The largest natural catastrophe event of 2020 to hit Latin America and the Caribbean was hurricane Iota in November, with an estimated economic loss of about $1.3 billion, but a much lower insured loss.
“Natural catastrophe losses were high in 2020, but things could have been worse,” Yingzhen Chuang, regional director, catastrophe analytics, at Willis Re International, said in the statement.