The Heat Is Online

2001 Disaster Casualties Double Previous Year

Natural Disasters Kill 25,000 Worldwide in 2001

Reuters News Service, Dec. 28, 2001

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Natural disasters caused at least 25,000 deaths worldwide in 2001, more than double the previous year, the world's largest reinsurer said on Friday.

Putting total economic losses at $36 billion, Munich Re said catastrophes related to extreme weather were a result of continued global climate change.

It said the 2001 figures -- with 14,000 people killed in an earthquake in India in January alone -- compared with 10,000 deaths the previous year and losses of around $30 billion.

Storms and floods dominated this year's statistics, contributing more than two thirds to the 700 major disasters and causing 91 percent of all insured natural disaster losses, Munich Re said.

Total insured losses were at $11.5 billion compared with $7.5 billion the previous year.

"Forest fires in Australia, floods in Brazil and in Turkey, snow chaos in central and southern Europe and a typhoon in Singapore, which was meteorologically seen as impossible, are all indications for a link between climate changes and a rise in weather catastrophes," the company said in a statement.

Citing World Meteorological Organization (WMO) statistics, the reinsurer said 2001 had been the second warmest year since the beginning of systematic temperature recording 160 years ago.

Munich Re said the worst event in terms of the number of deaths was an earthquake in the densely-populated northwestern Gujarat region of India with 14,000 deaths confirmed and many more feared dead.

It said it had counted 80 major earthquakes, burdening economies with around $9-billion losses.

The worst weather-related disaster in 2001 was tropical storm Allison, which caused losses of some $6 billion, making it "the most expensive tropical storm in history."

Munich Re -- which faces $1.85 billion in claims resulting from the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York -- said losses from extreme natural disasters would be even bigger than those arising from the attacks on the United States.

Munich Re -- which faces $1.85 billion in claims resulting from the September 11 attacks on the

World Trade Center in New York -- said losses from extreme natural disasters would be even bigger than those arising from the attacks on the United States.

"Clients, insurers and reinsurers have to take into account the unthinkable. According to our estimates extreme losses from natural disasters can be even higher than the insured losses from September 11," Munich Re board member Wolf Otto Bauer said in the statement.

Claims resulting from the attacks in the United States -- its biggest ever loss -- will push Munich Re's profits sharply lower this year, but the company expects to remain profitable.