Global natural disasters wrought $160B damage in 2018: Munich Re

Natural disasters including wildfires, hurricanes and tsunamis
inflicted $160 billion of damage and claimed 10,400 lives in
2018, German reinsurer Munich Re said Tuesday.

The financial toll was far below the $350 billion recorded the
previous year in a record hurricane season, the firm said in
its annual reckoning, but above the 30-year average of $140
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 $24 billion of damage in California, while
Hurricanes Florence and Michael accounted for a combined $30
billion.

Just one blaze known as the “Camp Fire” killed 86 people and
caused losses of $16.5 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
Ernst Rauch, Munich Re’s head of climate and geosciences.

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.

Looking to the human cost of catastrophes, the financial firm
said the deadliest event was a September 28 tsunami that hit
the Indonesian city of Palu, killing 2,100 people.

Munich Re highlighted that 2018’s natural disaster death toll
was far below the 53,000 average for the previous 30 years.

“From a global perspective, measures to protect human life are
starting to take effect,” the Bavarian company said.

Worldwide, the firm pointed to an unusual hurricane season last
year as “named tropical storms in all northern-hemisphere ocean
basins outnumbered the long-term average”.

Category-five “super typhoon” Mangkhut, also known as Ompong,
killed 100 people when it struck the Philippines in September.

Jebi, just one of seven typhoons to strike Japan, dealt $12.5
billion in damage.

Beyond the hurricanes, a second tsunami that struck the
Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java in December killed “at
least” 400.

The tidal wave went undetected by early warning systems as it
was caused by an underwater landslide rather than an
earthquake.

Meanwhile Japan suffered a further $9 billion in damage from
two earthquakes.

Europe was spared dramatic one-off disasters in 2018, but a
long summer drought inflicted around $3.9 billion in direct
losses to arable and livestock farmers and slowed economies as
rivers ebbed too low to be used for freight traffic.

The dry summer also contributed to violent wildfires in
Scandinavia.

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