III: US Saw $17.3 Billion in Insured Losses in First Half of 2011

Natural disasters worldwide have put 2011 on track to be easily the most expensive year in history in terms of economic damages caused by catastrophes, according to the president of the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Earthquakes, tsunami, floods and tornadoes during the first six months of the year inflicted $260 billion in economic losses globally and $27 billion in the United States, Robert P. Hartwig told a weekend gathering of insurers in Houston during a presentation, a copy of which was obtained by Online Auto Insurance News.

The losses—already the highest on record for the first half of the year, surpassing the $220 billion incurred from January through June of 2005—do not include damage done by Hurricane Irene, wildfires in Texas and other recent catastrophic events that have slammed much of the nation.

According to the III report, global insured losses for the first six months of the year total $55 billion, more than twice the total for the same period last year. The U.S. saw $17.3 billion in insured losses stemming from 100 catastrophe events—a 162 percent increase over the $6.6 billion lost to that point in 2010.

The III report adds to a growing body of efforts to quantify the extent of economic damage inflicted by natural disasters in recent months.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported last week that domestic weather catastrophes brought more than $35 billion in economic costs, even before Irene and other disasters.

Losses from Irene alone could climb as high as $5 billion, Hartwig and other experts have predicted.

The insurance industry typically categorizes as catastrophes those events that cause $25 million or more in insured property losses and impact large number of policyholders and coverage providers.

Those losses can take the form of destroyed homes, totaled vehicles and other economic damages, which is a large part of the reason government and insurance industry officials counsel  consumers to be sure they maintain sufficient homeowner and automobile insurance coverage to reimburse them in the event of a natural disaster.

According to III, the costliest catastrophes worldwide for insured losses in the first six months of the year were the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan—killing at least 15,500 and doing an estimated $30 billion in damage—and the New Zealand earthquake that caused more than $10 billion in insured losses.

Those disasters followed by severe storms and tornadoes in the U.S. in late April that incurred more than $5 billion in damages, the report found.


About Gregor McGavin
Gregor McGavin is an award-winning journalist who has reported across the country for such publications as The Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Press-Enterprise.

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