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Catastrophe claims are already "second highest"

An unusually high number of hurricanes and tornadoes in the first six months has already made 2011 the second costliest year for insurers, Swiss Re said on Friday.

Industry insured losses from natural catastrophes rose to an estimated $67 billion (SFr58 billion) in the first half of the year, more than twice the level in the 2010 period, the Zurich-based company said.

Insured losses are those losses which insurers and reinsurers have to cover. 

This would make 2011 second only to 2005, when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in the United States, said Swiss Re, which is the world’s second-largest reinsurer. In contrast, man-made disasters resulted in payments of only around $3 billion, similar to 2010.

"In terms of catastrophe claims, 2011 is already the second costliest year in history for the insurance industry," Chief Economist Thomas Hess said in a statement.  

"Additional claims from the ongoing US hurricane season or expensive winter storms in Europe have the potential to bring figures for the full year even closer to the record claims of $120 billion experienced in 2005." 

March’s earthquake in Japan is likely to have caused an insured loss of $30 billion, added Swiss Re, with the total cost of the disaster likely to rise once damage to nuclear plants and the costs of interrupting business are fully factored in. and agencies


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