Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters claimed over 15,000 lives last year and cost insurers $26 billion (SFr27.6 billion), according to a study from Swiss Re.
The Zurich-based reinsurance company said that compared with previous years, insured losses were low due to a calm hurricane season in the United States.
Swiss Re said that natural catastrophes cost insurers $22 billion, while man-made disasters added an additional $4 billion.
Six events each caused insured losses of more than $1 billion. The costliest was the European winter storm Klaus, which struck France and Spain in January, and led to losses of almost $3.4 billion.
The study pointed out that historically, catastrophe losses have been highly volatile, with a strong upward trend.
Swiss Re said earthquakes that struck Haiti in January 2010 and Chile last month were “grim reminders” of their destructive force. Since 1970, 360 earthquakes have claimed more than one million lives.
“The deadliest earthquakes tend to occur in less economically developed countries and in regions that are usually densely populated and prone to earthquakes,” commented Brian Rogers, co-author of the study.
“These countries typically have low per-capita income and fewer resources for prevention and post-disaster management.”