Facts + Statistics: Global catastrophes

2019 natural catastrophes

Overall losses from world-wide natural catastrophes in 2019 totaled $150 billion dollars, roughly in line with the inflation-adjusted average of the past 30 year and down from $186 billion in 2018, according to Munich Re. There were 820 events that caused losses in 2019, compared with 850 events in 2018. Insured losses from the 2019 events totaled $52 billion, down from $86 billion in 2018. Natural catastrophes in 2019 caused about 9,000 deaths, compared with 15,000 in 2018.

Ranked by insured losses, the top two costliest natural catastrophe in 2019 were typhoons in Japan, according to Munich Re. The costliest, Typhoon Hagibis, resulted in $10 billion in insured losses, while Typhoon Faxai caused $7 billion in insured losses. Hurricane Dorian, which devastated areas in the Bahamas and affected the United States, ranked third with $4 billion in insured losses. Rounding out the top five catastrophes by insured losses were severe storms and flooding in the United States in May resulting in $3.6 billion in insured losses and a severe storm in October in the United States causing $2 billion in insured losses. The worst catastrophe ranked by the number of deaths was Cyclone Idai which struck Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa in March and caused more than 1,000 deaths.

World Natural Catastrophes, 2019

 

Source: © 2020 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of January 2020.

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World Natural Catastrophe Losses, 2019

 

Source: © 2020 Munich Re, NatCatSERVICE. As of January 2020.

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Top Five World Costliest Natural Catastrophes By Overall Losses, 2019

 

Source: © 2020 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of January 2020.

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Top Five World Costliest Natural Catastrophes By Insured Losses, 2019 (1)

 

(1) U.S. losses include the loss estimation based on Property Claims Services (PCS).

Source: © 2020 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of January 2020.

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Top Five World Natural Catastrophes By Fatalities, 2019

 

Source: © 2020 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of January 2020.

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World Natural Catastrophes By Type Of Event, 2018

(Percentage distribution)

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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World Natural Catastrophes By Continent, 2018

(Percentage distribution)

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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World Weather-Related Catastrophes By Type Of Event, 2018

(Percentage distribution)

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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World Weather-Related Natural Catastrophes By Continent, 2018

(Percentage distribution)

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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World Natural Catastrophes By Overall And Insured Losses, 1980–2018

 

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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Number Of World Natural Catastrophes, 1980-2018

(Number of relevant events by peril)

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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World Weather-Related Natural Catastrophes By Overall And Insured Losses, 1980-2018

 

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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World Weather-Related Natural Catastrophes By Peril, 1980-2018

(Number of relevant events by peril)

Source: © 2019 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE. As of March 2019.

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Natural and Man-made Disasters

Swiss Re collects data on global insured losses resulting from both natural catastrophes and man-made disasters. Besides including man-made disasters, Swiss Re’s figures differ from Aon’s because Swiss Re uses different collection methods and criteria for classifying events. According to Swiss Re's December 2019 report on global losses, insured losses were estimated to total $56 billion in 2019, down from $93 billion in 2018, and below the previous ten-year average of $75 billion. In the second half of 2019, tropical cyclones resulted in higher losses after a quieter first half. The report notes that a number of smaller and medium-sized events, known as secondary perils, accounted for more than 50 percent of 2019’s insured losses. Secondary perils  have a higher frequency when compared to catastrophes such as hurricanes and earthquakes and have low to medium severity; or they are events that occur as a secondary effect of a primary event, such as tsunami following an earthquake.

There were 292 disaster events in 2019, 193 of which were natural disasters and 99 were man-made events. Natural disasters accounted for $50 billion in losses, compared with $84 billion in 2018. Man-made disasters accounted for the remaining $6 billion in losses, compared with $9 billion in 2018. In 2019, 11,000 people worldwide perished or were missing in natural and man-made disasters. Tropical cyclones such as Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and North Carolina and typhoons Faxai and Hagibis in Japan drove natural catastrophe losses.

Nuclear incidents

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rates the severity of nuclear incidents on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) from one (indicating an anomaly) to seven (indicating a major event). The scale considers an event’s impact based on three criteria: its effect on people and the environment; whether it caused unsafe levels of radiation in a facility; and if preventive measures did not function as intended. Scales six and seven designate full meltdowns, where the nuclear fuel reactor core overheats and melts. Partial meltdowns, in which the fuel is damaged, are rated four or five.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency assigned a rating of seven to the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The 1986 Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union is the only other incident to rate a seven. The Chernobyl incident killed 56 people directly and thousands of others indirectly through cancer and other diseases. The 2011 incident released high amounts of radiation and caused widespread evacuations in affected areas but only one death to date.

The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the worst nuclear accident in the United States, was designated a five. Insurers paid about $71 million in liability claims and litigation costs associated with the accident. In addition to the liability payments to the public under the Price-Anderson Act, $300 million was paid by a pool of insurers to the operator of the damaged nuclear power plant under its property insurance policy.

Selected Examples of Historic Nuclear Events, as Classified by the INES Scale (1)

 

Level INES description Example Location Year
1 Anomaly Fast stop of the main circulation pumps
and simultaneous loss of their fly wheel
systems during reactor scram
Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant,  Finland 2008
    Exposure of two workers in the nuclear power plant beyond the dose constraints Rajasthan Nuclear Power Plant, India 2012
2 Incident Reactor trip due to high pressure in the reactor pressure vessel Laguna Verde Nuclear
Power Plant, Mexico
2011
    Overexposure of a practitioner in interventional radiology exceeding the annual limit Paris, France 2013
3 Serious incident Release of iodine 131 into the environment from the radioelements production facility Fleurus, Belgium 2008
    Severe overexposure of a radiographer Lima, Peru 2012
4 Accident with local consequences Radioactive material in scrap metal facility resulted in acute exposure of scrap dealer New Delhi, India 2010
    Overexposure of four workers at an irradiation facility Stamboliysky, Bulgaria 2011
5 Accident with wider consequences Severe damage to the reactor core Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant, USA 1979
    Four people died after being overexposed from an abandoned and ruptured high activity source Goiania, Brazil  1987
6 Serious accident Significant release of radioactive material to the environment after the explosion of a high activity waste tank Kyshtym, Russian Federation 1957
7 Major accident Significant release of radioactive material to the environment resulting in widespread health and environmental effects  Chernobyl, Ukraine 1986
    Significant release of radioactive material to the environment resulting in widespread environmental effects Fukushima, Japan 2011

(1) International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency. INES Flyer.

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Top 15 World Property Damage Losses In The Hydrocarbon Industry (1)

(US $ millions)

Rank Date Plant type Event type Location Country Property loss (2)
1 Jul. 7, 1988 E&P offshore (3) Explosion, fire Piper Alpha, North Sea U.K. $1,960
2 Jan. 11, 2017 Refinery Fire Ruwais, Abu Dhabi U.A.E 1,000+
3 Oct. 23, 1989 Chemical Explosion, vapour cloud explosion Pasadena, Texas U.S. 1,520
4 Mar. 19, 1989 E&P offshore (3) Explosion, fire Baker, Gulf of Mexico U.S. 900
5 Mar. 15, 2001 E&P offshore (3) Explosion Rancador Field, Campos Basin Brazil 850
6 Sep. 25, 1998 Gas processing Explosion, vapour cloud explosion Sale, Longford, Victoria Australia 810
7 Apr. 24, 1988 E&P offshore (3) Blowout Enchova, Campos Basin Brazil 760
8 Sep. 21, 2001 Fertilizer Explosion Toulouse France 730
9 Jun. 25, 2000 Refinery Explosion, fire Mina Al-Ahmadi Kuwait 720
10 May 4, 1988 Chemical Explosion Henderson, Nevada U.S. 690
11 Jan. 19, 2004 Gas processing Explosion, fire Skikda Algeria 690
12 Apr. 1, 2015 E&P offshore (3) Fire Abkatun, Bay of Campeche Mexico 690
13 May 5, 1988 Refinery Explosion, vapour cloud explosion Norco, Louisiana U.S. 670
14 Mar. 11, 2011 Refinery Explosion, fire Sendai Japan 650
15 Apr. 21, 2010 E&P offshore (3) Explosion, fire Gulf of Mexico U.S. 640

(1) Property damage only.
(2) Inflated to December 2017 values.
(3) Exploration and production.

Source: The 100 Largest Losses, 1978-2017, March 2018, Marsh & McLennan Companies.

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Insurance Catastrophe Loss Review: Oil Spills: View PowerPoint Presentation slides.

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