Global natural disasters wreak USD160B damage in 2018: Munich Re

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) – Natural disasters including wildfires, hurricanes and tsunamis inflicted USD160 billion of damage and claimed 10,400 lives in 2018, German reinsurer Munich Re said yesterday.

The financial toll was far below the USD350 billion recorded the previous year in a record hurricane season, the firm said in its annual reckoning, but above the 30-year average of USD140 billion.

As with the previous year the United States suffered the heaviest losses from disasters globally, with its second record wildfire season in a row. But it was given some respite from damaging storms, with the hurricanes hitting the country in 2018 inflicting far less destruction than in 2017.

Wildfires dealt USD24 billion of damage in California, while Hurricanes Florence and Michael accounted for a combined USD30 billion.

Just one blaze known as the ‘Camp Fire’ killed 86 people and caused losses of USD16.5 billion in early November as it tore through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

As losses from wildfires have grown in step with increasingly frequent hot and dry summers, “many scientists see a link between these developments and advancing climate change”, said Munich Re’s Head of Climate and Geosciences Ernst Rauch.

What’s more, “burgeoning settlements in areas close to forests at risk from wildfire” mean that “casualties and losses are immense,” he added.

Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek warned that “action is urgently needed on building codes and land use” to limit wildfire losses.