Natural catastrophes: a record high bill in 2011

The year 2011 was marked by a series of natural catastrophes that shook the four corners of the world triggering 380 billion USD in economic damages. 2011 has therefore become the most onerous year, well above 2005, which reported losses of 220 billion USD following the passage of hurricane Katrina.

Cascade of catastrophes

Photo credit: US NavyIn addition to the earthquakes of New Zealand, Japan and Turkey, the year 2011 was also marked by severe floods in Brazil, Thailand and Australia. Violent hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones have also lashed the United States.

A study by Munich Re reported a decrease in the number of catastrophic events in 2011, 820 losses in 2011 against 920 in 2010. However, this decline has been accompanied by a 150% increase in the intensity of events. It is this last factor which increased the burden of losses from 152 billion USD in 2010 to 380 billion USD in 2011.

Earthquakes were the deadliest and most expensive catastrophes in 2011.
The March 11 earthquake in Japan, alone, followed by a devastating tsunami caused damages estimated at 210 billion USD.

Insurers' losses

With 105 billion USD of insured losses, against 101 billion USD in 2005 and 42 billion USD in 2010, the year 2011 is the most expensive in the history of insurance.
The earthquake in Japan has impacted the market up to 40 billion USD.

The human toll

Natural catastrophes tend to be less deadly than before. The human toll of 2011 amounted to 27 000 victims. It is much smaller than that of 2010 with its 296 000 victims or that of 2004 which claimed the lives of 283 105 people 270 000 of whom for just the Indonesian tsunami.

The vast majority of these casualties is accounted for by earthquakes. With 15 840 deaths, the catastrophe of Japan has been the deadliest in 2011.

According to a United Nations study, nearly 90% of natural catastrophes-related deaths in 2011 occurred in Asia, versus 8% in the United States and 2% in Africa. The number of people affected by these events worldwide amounts to 206 million. The same study also found that between 1999 and 2011, natural catastrophes have damaged 73 000 km of roads and destroyed 64 000 schools in 19 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The most important natural catastrophes in 2011 in millions USD
11 January
Landslide and floodsBrazil1 200-1 384
22 February
EarthquakeNew Zeland16 00012 000181
11 March
Earthquake followed by a tsunamiJapan210 00035-40 00015 840
TornadoesUnited States15 0007 300350
1st August-
15 November
FloodsThailand40 00010 000813
23 October
16-18 December
TyphoonPhilippines48.4-1 257
Sources: Munich Re, AIR Worldwide and press articles
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