Global disasters expected to cost insurers S$45 billion in 2015

People clear rubble in Kathmandu's Durbar Square after the earthquake on April 25, 2015.
People clear rubble in Kathmandu's Durbar Square after the earthquake on April 25, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

ZURICH (Reuters) - Catastrophes in 2015 proved more deadly than the previous year, although the total cost to the insurance industry is likely to be 8.6 percent lower at US$32 billion (S$45 billion), reinsurance specialist Swiss Re said in its annual "sigma" report on expected global insured losses, which was released on Friday.

Approximately 26,000 people died from disasters this year, the company said, more than double the fatalities counted in 2014, with the greatest loss of life caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal that killed 9,000 and destroyed half a million homes.

Meanwhile record temperatures saw over 5,000 deaths from extreme heat this summer in India, Pakistan, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, but the most costly single event for the insurance industry was in the United States, where a storm in February resulted in insured losses of more than US$2 billion, Swiss Re said.

However, a mild North Atlantic hurricane season kept the total for global insured losses low, with the estimated total losses of US$32 billion down from US$35 billion in 2014.

Total economic losses from disasters were down by US$28 billion from the previous year and, at US$85 billion, less than half the annual average for the past decade.

Swiss Re said while the cost of natural disasters fell, man-made disasters took a higher toll on the industry, with the port explosion in China expected to cost more than any other event this year.

"The explosions at the Port of Tianjin in China are expected to lead to the year's biggest insured loss, and the biggest man-made insured loss in Asia ever," it said.