30 Dec 2008

2008 particularly bad year for disasters

3:11 pm on 30 December 2008

One of the world's biggest re-insurance companies says 2008 has been among the worst for losses from natural disasters.

Although there were fewer disasters than in 2007, Munich Re says their impact has been greater - in both human and material terms.

It says the economic losses total $US200 billion, with the most expensive event in terms of insurance payouts being Hurricane Ike in the Gulf of Mexico. Uninsured losses totalled $US45 billion - about 50% more than in 2007.

More than 220,000 people died in cyclones, earthquakes and flooding this year - the highest number since 2004, the year of the Asian tsunami.

The BBC reports this makes 2008 the third most expensive year since 1995, when the Kobe earthquake struck Japan, and 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina in the United States.

Munich Re says Asia was the continent worst hit by natural disasters in 2008. Cyclone Nargis killed more than 135,000 people in Burma in May and an earthquake in the Sichuan province of China on 12 May left 70,000 dead, 18,000 missing and almost five million people homeless.