Facts + Statistics: Global catastrophes

2018 natural catastrophes

Overall losses from world-wide natural catastrophes in 2018 totaled $160 billion dollars, down from $350 billion in 2017, according to Munich Re. There were 850 events that caused losses in 2018, compared with 740 events in the prior year. Insured losses from the 2018 events totaled $80 billion, down from $140 billion in 2017. Insured losses in 2018 were $19 billion or 31 percent higher than the average of the prior ten years, 2008 to 2017. Natural catastrophes in 2018 caused 10,400 deaths, compared with 13,000 in 2017 and 60,000 in the ten years ending in 2017.

Ranked by insured losses, the costliest natural catastrophe in 2018 was the Camp Fire in California that caused $12.5 billion in insured losses, according to Munich Re. Hurricane Michael in the United States and Cuba resulted in $10 billion in insured losses. Rounding out the top 5 catastrophes by insured losses were Typhoon Jebi in Japan and Taiwan with $9 billion in losses; Hurricane Florence in the United States that resulted in losses of $5.0 billion; and the Woolsey Fire in California that caused $4 billion in losses. Losses for the hurricanes and wildfires in the United States are preliminary.

World Natural Catastrophes, 2018

 

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

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World Natural Catastrophe Losses, 2018

 

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

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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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Top 5 World Costliest Natural Catastrophes By Overall Losses, 2018 (1)

 

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

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

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Top 5 World Costliest Natural Catastrophes By Insured Losses, 2018 (1)

 

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

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

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Top 5 World Natural Catastrophes By Fatalities, 2018 (1)

 

(1) Fatalities for the December 22 volcanic activity and tsunami event in Indonesia are preliminary.

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 global insured losses resulting from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters. Besides including man-made disasters, Swiss Re figures differ from other companies because Swiss Re uses different collection methods and criteria. According to Swiss Re’s report on global losses from February 2019, insured losses totaled $85 billion in 2018, down from $144 billion in 2017, the highest annual insured losses since Swiss Re began keeping records. 2018 losses were the fourth highest on record and above the previous 10-year average of $71 billion. According to Swiss Re, the largest insurance loss came from California’s Camp Fire, which generated $12 billion in losses, followed by Hurricane Michael in Florida and Typhoon Jebi in Japan. There were 304 disaster events in 2018, of which 181 were natural disasters and 123 were man-made events. Natural disasters accounted for $76 billion in losses, compared with $143 billion in 2017. Man-made disasters accounted for the remaining $9 billion in losses. By region, North America accounted for most of the insured losses in 2018, at about $53 billion, and amounted to almost 63 percent of world insured losses. Most of those losses resulted from wildfires, thunderstorms and hurricanes. In 2018, 13,500 people worldwide perished in natural and man-made disasters. Swiss Re emphasized that large losses from secondary perils have been occurring more frequently. Secondary perils are those that are independent and have a higher frequency when compared to catastrophes such as hurricanes and earthquakes and have low to medium severity; or events that occur as a secondary effect of a primary event, such as tsunami following an earthquake. The Camp Fire of 2018 is classified as a secondary peril loss because the fire wiped out development in a wildland-urban interface area that was stricken by drought. Swiss Re says that 60 percent of insured losses in 2018 stemmed from secondary perils.llowing an earthquake. The Camp Fire of 2018 is classified as a secondary peril loss because the fire wiped out development in a wildland-urban interface area that was stricken by drought. Swiss Re says that 60 percent of insured losses in 2018 stemmed from secondary perils.

Top 20 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 Upstream Explosion/fire Piper Alpha, North Sea U.K. $1,810
2 Oct. 23,1989 Petrochem Vapour cloud explosion Pasadena, Texas U.S. 1,400
3 Jan. 19, 2004 Gas processing Explosion/fire Skikda Algeria 940
4 Jun. 4, 2009 Upstream Collision Norwegian Sector North Sea 840
5 Mar. 19, 1989 Upstream Explosion/fire Gulf of Mexico U.S. 830
6 Jun. 25, 2000 Refinery Explosion/fire Mina Al-Ahmadi Kuwait 820
7 May 15, 2001 Upstream Explosion/fire/sinking Campos Basin Brasil 790
8 Sep. 25, 1998 Gas processing Explosion Longford, Victoria Australia 750
9 Apr. 24, 1988 Upstream Blowout Enchova, Campos Basin Brazil 700
10 Sep. 21, 2001 Petrochemical Explosion Toulouse France 680
11 May 4, 1988 Petrochemical Explosion Henderson, Nevada U.S. 640
12 May 5, 1988 Refinery Vapour cloud explosion Norco, Louisiana U.S. 610
13 Mar. 11, 2011  Refinery Earthquake (3) Sendai Japan 600
14 Apr. 21, 2010 Upstream Blowout/explosion/fire Gulf of Mexico U.S. 600
15 Sep. 12, 2008 Refinery Hurricane Texas U.S. 550
16 Jun. 13, 2013 Petrochemical Explosion/fire Geismar, Louisiana U.S. 510
17 Apr. 2, 2013 Refinery Flooding/fire La Plata, Ensenada Argentina 500 (4)
18 Dec. 25, 1997 Gas processing Explosion/fire Bintulu, Sarawak Malaysia 490
19 Jul. 27, 2005 Upstream Collision/fire Mumbai High North Field India 480
20 Nov. 14, 1987 Petrochemical Vapour cloud explosion Pampa, Texas USA 480

(1) Property damage, debris removal and clean-up costs.
(2) Inflated to December 2013 values.
(3) Loss to refinery following the Tohuku earthquake.
(4) Preliminary.

Source: Energy Practice, Marsh & McLennan Companies.

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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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