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Catastrophic economic losses triple

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Rising losses from natural and man-made catastrophes have highlighted the need for prevention and post-disaster management, Swiss Re’s chief economist says has warned.

Thomas Hess says claims have more than tripled this year.

Swiss Re last week released estimates that show the economic cost of extreme weather events dramatically increased to $US222 billion ($227 billion) this year.

This is more than triple last year’s $US63 billion ($64.6 million) while the global insurance industry also saw a 34% jump in costs to $US36 billion ($36.9 million).

Catastrophic and man-made events have also had a dramatic impact on the world’s population, with more than 260,000 killed compared to 15,000 last year.

Swiss Re says the global insurance industry was hit the hardest by natural catastrophes, with losses up to $US31 billion ($31.8 billion) compared to just $US5 billion ($5.13 billion) for man-made disasters.

Despite costing the industry $US9 billion more than 2009 in overall costs, claims were in line with the 20-year average as the result of “modest” US hurricane losses.

Earthquakes triggered the biggest losses so far this year, with Chile costing more than $US8 billion ($8.2 billion) and Christchurch $US2.7 billion ($2.77 billion)

Mr Hess says these “humanitarian catastrophes” show how important prevention and post-disaster management is for protecting lives and the health of the people affected.

“They also revealed the large difficulties in how developed insurance systems are in the affected countries and how important insurance is in coping with financial consequences of disasters,” he says.

Mr Hess says the most costly events were covered by insurance, but the earthquake in Haiti and floods in Asia were “barely insured”.

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