Natural catastrophes cost 150 bln U.S. dollars in 2019: Munich Re

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BERLIN, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- Natural catastrophes caused overall losses of 150 billion U.S. dollars globally in 2019, an increase of 10 billion U.S. dollars compared to the previous year, the German reinsurer Munich Re said on Wednesday.

About 9,000 people lost their lives in 820 natural catastrophes worldwide in 2019, a drastic decrease from the 15,000 deaths registered in 2018. Munich Re stated that this development would confirm "the overall trend towards lower numbers of victims thanks to better prevention measures."

According to Munich Re, the rate of insured losses was around the ten-year average of 35 percent, showing that "large sections of the market remain uninsured, especially in emerging and developing countries."

"The severe cyclones in 2019 have highlighted the importance of knowledge about changes in risk," commented Torsten Jeworrek, member of Munich Re's Board of Management, adding that "longer-term climate change effects can already be felt and seen."

As in 2018, Japan's Tokyo area was again struck by severe typhoons in 2019. Causing a combined total loss of 26 billion U.S. dollars, the two cyclones Hagibis and Faxai were the costliest natural catastrophes of the year, according to preliminary estimates by Munich Re.

While the wildfire season in California was mild compared to the previous year, when it caused record losses, the bushfire season in Australia has been "very severe," according to Munich Re. The German reinsurer said that the bushfires would lead to "substantial losses."

Munich Re stressed that individual events could not be directly attributed to climate change. However, recent studies have shown that in the long term the environmental conditions for bushfires have become more favorable especially in the south and east of Australia.

In Europe, a combination of heatwaves and severe hailstorms during the summer was the greatest cause of losses, according to Munich Re. In the German city of Munich, a storm in June brought hailstones the size of golf balls and caused nearly one billion U.S. dollars in losses.

Even more extreme hail damage was caused in the Adriatic area in Italy in July 2019, when "hailstones as large as oranges" pelted cars and roofs. Overall, the summer storms in Europe caused losses of 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.

Although the hailstorms are "localized, they can cause extreme damage and can even be life-threatening," warned Munich Re expert Ernst Rauch. Recent studies have shown that hailstorms are expected to become more frequent in several regions as a consequence of climate change.

To mitigate the effects of climate change, Rauch suggested measures, such as "better early-warning systems and more resistant building materials in order to mitigate against long-term increases in losses." Enditem

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