Costly disastersTropical Cyclones Causing Billions in Losses Dominate 2019 Natural Catastrophe Picture

Published 17 January 2020

Natural catastrophes cause overall losses of $150 billion, with insured losses of about $52 billion. Severe typhoons in Japan cause the year’s biggest losses. Hurricane Dorian, the strongest hurricane of the year, devastates the Bahamas, but the U.S. mainland was largely spared. Humanitarian tragedy caused by cyclones in Mozambique, with more than 1,000 deaths.  – Better protection is urgently needed

Natural disasters proved costly in 2019, which saw 820 natural catastrophes which overall losses of $150 billion, which is broadly in line with the inflation-adjusted average of the past thirty years. A smaller portion of losses was insured compared with 2018: about $52 billion. This was due, among other things, to the high share of flood losses, which are often not insured to the same extent as wind damage in most industrial countries.

Munich Re says that the insured portion of overall losses, slightly above 35 percent, matches the average of the past ten years. This is evidence that large sections of the market remain uninsured, especially in emerging and developing countries.

Globally, in 2019, about 9,000 people lost their lives in natural catastrophes compared with 15,000 in 2018. This confirms the overall trend towards lower numbers of victims thanks to better prevention measures. On average over the past 30 years, about 52,000 people per year have lost their lives in natural catastrophes.

Second Year of Record Tropical Cyclone Losses in Japan
As in 2018, Japan was again struck by very severe typhoons. Hagibis and Faxai were two equally severe tropical cyclones which hit the Tokyo area. While Faxai swept over Tokyo Bay with wind speeds of 170 km/h and made landfall in the city of Chiba, Hagibis struck further northwest, directly over the Yokohama-Tokyo conurbation.

A special feature of Hagibis was extreme precipitation, even away from the center of the storm. In places, as much as 1,000 millimeters of rain fell within two days (that is about 1,000 litres per square meter). In many municipalities, this represented 40 percent of the usual annual rainfall. Levees on many rivers were breached. Countless buildings were seriously damaged, and many industrial operations were flooded.

The cyclones were the two costliest natural catastrophes of the year in terms of both overall losses and insured losses. According to preliminary estimates, overall losses from Hagibis totalled $17 billion, with insured losses of about $10 billion. Faxai caused estimated overall losses of about $9 billion, with insured losses of about $7 billion due to the greater share of more heavily insured storm losses.