2013’s Most Expensive Global CAT Events so Far

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The flooding in southern and eastern Germany and neighboring states in May and June caused insured losses of more than $3.9 billion, according to a global catastrophe losses assessment from Munich Re, and was the most expensive natural catastrophe in the first half of 2013.

“The frequency of flood events in Germany and central Europe has increased by a factor of two since 1980. But particularly with floods, an increased hazard need not necessarily result in higher losses. Such a rise in losses can be prevented by better flood control,” said Torsten Jeworrek, Munich Re board member. “It is therefore important to sharpen risk awareness.”

The flooding in Germany and neighboring countries to the east was caused by an atmospheric trough across central Europe, drawing moist air from the Mediterranean and southeast European area northwards over eastern Europe. As the ground was already saturated from the rainiest spring for 50 years, the rainwater flowed directly into the rivers, leading to the highest water levels seen in some of the region’s rivers since 1501.

The second most expensive event in the first half of 2013 was a squall line with severe tornadoes in the United States between May 18 and 22, which culminated with the EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, Okla.

“The central states of the U.S. have the highest tornado risk in the world. Altogether, however, the U.S. tornado season has been below average so far; by the end of June, 625 tornadoes had occurred, compared with the longer-term average of 1,075,” said Prof. Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit.

Another severe event was a flood in the Canadian province of Alberta that started on June 19; some of the worst flooding ever experienced in that area caused some 75,000 people to be evacuated. Initial estimates indicate an overall economic loss of more than $3 billion, while the insurance loss is likely to exceed $1 billion.

In all, 460 loss-relevant natural hazard events occurred throughout the world in the first half of the year, slightly exceeding the ten year average of 390.

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