Number of people who died in natural disasters worldwide rose sharply in 1st half of 2015: Insurer

Residents walk on a road covered with debris after landslides brought on by torrential monsoon rains, killed two people in Kennon Road in Benguet province in Philippines on July 13, 2015.
Residents walk on a road covered with debris after landslides brought on by torrential monsoon rains, killed two people in Kennon Road in Benguet province in Philippines on July 13, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

FRANKFURT (AFP) - The number of people who died in natural catastrophes worldwide increased sharply in the first six months of this year, according to the world's leading reinsurer Munich Re.

"The review on the natural catastrophes for the first half of 2015 was characterised by the earthquake in Nepal and by the heatwave that affected India and Pakistan," Munich Re said in a statement.

"Some 12,000 people fell victim to these two natural catastrophes."

"In the first half of the year, a total of over 16,000 people died in severe weather events and earthquakes," it said.

"This means that, by the end of June, the number of people that lost their lives in natural catastrophes was much greater than in the previous year (2,800), but also far lower than the average for the past 30 years (27,000)."

In economic terms, however, the overall losses and insured losses were below the long-term average values, Munich Re calculated.

The total losses incurred in the first half of 2015 were US$35 billion (S$47.5 billion), whereas the average value for the last 30 years was approximately $64 billion when adjusted for inflation.

Insured losses for the year so far amounted to US$12 billion compared with a long-term average of US$15 billion.

"The natural catastrophes in the first half of the year show us once again that vulnerability to natural catastrophes needs to be reduced, particularly in emerging and developing countries," said board member Torsten Jeworrek.

"This is necessary first of all to ensure people are better protected, but also to keep losses as low as possible," he said.

Among the main natural catastrophes worldwide for the first half of the year was a massive earthquake in Nepal on April 25, where 8,850 people were killed, and many cultural heritage sites were destroyed.

"It was not just the natural catastrophe with the largest number of fatalities in the first half of the year, but also the most grievous event in terms of overall losses. These totalled $4.5 billion, of which only US$140 million was insured," Munich Re said.

The costliest natural catastrophe for the insurance industry was a series of winter storms that struck the United States and Canada at the end of February. The insured loss was US$1.8 billion, with total losses of US$2.4 billion.

In Europe, the costliest natural catastrophe was winter storm Niklas, which swept across large areas of central Europe in the closing days of March.

A large number of buildings and vehicles were damaged. The overall loss was US$1.4 billion, of which around US$1 billion was insured, Munich Re said.