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A Repeat Performance

Munich Re: Typhoons in Japan are the costliest natural catastrophes for the second year in a row.
  • RenĂ©e Kiriluk-Hill
  • February 2020
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Global natural catastrophic insured losses declined to $52 billion last year as severe tropical storms, where much of the damage is caused by flooding, dominated, Munich Re said in a 2019 recap.That compared to $80 billion in 2018. Typhoons Faxai and Hagibis in Japan were the costliest natural catastrophes for insurers. Carriers incurred estimated losses of $17 billion from the Sept. 9 and Oct. 12 storms. Extreme rainfall in October from Hagibis inflicted insured losses of approximately $10 billion.

Insurers in Japan paid ¥746.4 billion (US$6.8 billion) in claims through Dec. 9 on claims related to Faxai and Hagibis, General Insurance Association of Japan Chairman Yasuzo Kanasugi said in December.

“The typhoon season shows that we must consider short-term natural climate variations as well as long-term trends due to climate change. In particular, cyclones are becoming more frequently associated with extreme precipitation, as with Hagibis in Japan in 2019 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 in the U.S.,” Munich Re Chief Climate and Geoscientist Ernst Rauch said in the report.

While it was the second year of record-setting losses from typhoons in Japan, U.S. insurers incurred far fewer wildfire losses and were largely spared losses from Hurricane Dorian, the most damaging Atlantic storm, which made landfall in the Bahamas Sept. 1. Insurers incurred about $4 billion of losses from Dorian, said Munich Re. Insured losses in the United States during the 2019 hurricane season reached about $2 billion, dropping the U.S. share of global catastrophe losses four points lower than the long-term average of 35%.

The number of tornadoes slightly exceeded the average and snow melt and severe storms in spring triggered severe flooding in the Midwest and other Mississippi River regions, Munich Re said, estimating insured losses at $14 billion.

—Renée Kiriluk-Hill

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