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Natural Catastrophe Losses Rise to $37 Billion, Munich Re Says

The cost to insurers of natural disasters increased by more than two-thirds to $37 billion last year from 2009, according to Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer.

Insured losses exceeded the annual average of $35 billion over the preceding 10 years and compared with $22 billion in 2009, the Munich-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. Overall losses from natural disasters more than doubled to $130 billion in 2010 from a year earlier, Munich Re said.

“2010 showed the major risks we have to cope with,” Torsten Jeworrek, who heads the Munich-based company’s reinsurance business, said in the statement. “There were a number of severe earthquakes. The hurricane season was also eventful -- it was just fortunate that the tracks of most of the storms remained over the open sea.”

The number of natural catastrophes in the world rose to 950 from 900 in 2009, with 90 percent of last year’s events related to weather, Munich Re said. The earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and central China, the heatwave in Russia and the floods in Pakistan were all categorized as “great natural catastrophes” based on United Nations criteria, the reinsurer said.

“These accounted for the major share of fatalities in 2010 -- around 295,000 -- and just under half the overall losses caused by natural catastrophes,” Munich Re said.

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