Latest statistics confirm a trend towards an increase in number and costs of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters, according to Swiss Re. Its annual sigma study found that 2008 was one of the worst years for catastrophe losses. Economic losses from natural and man-made catastrophes around the world added up to $269 billion in 2008, the highest total since 2005 when a series of hurricanes led to losses of $262 billion. More than 240,500 people lost their lives in 311 catastrophic events (137 natural catastrophes and 174 man-made disasters) during the year, most of whom lived in Asia. In the aftermath, property insurers paid out $52.5 billion making 2008 one of the costliest years since the hurricane-prone years 2004 and 2005. The events causing the biggest insurance claims were related to storms. High catastrophe claims in the United States were driven by hurricanes Ike and Gustav (resulting in insured losses estimated at $20 billion and $4 billion respectively) as well as tornadoes and thunderstorms during the first half of 2008. Europe’s losses, down from last year, represented slightly more than one tenth of the world total in 2008, largely due to lower storm and flood damages. Snow storms and freezing rain struck China in early 2008 resulting in losses of $1.3 billion. Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on global catastrophes.