A new sigma study from Swiss Re reveals what many insurers already knew—that 2010 was a horrific year in many ways. Worldwide economic losses as a result of natural and man-made disasters last year totaled $218 billion—more than triple 2009's $68 billion sum. On top of this, the global insurance industry was on the hook for more than $43 billion of that—a greater than 60% rise from 2009.

Of course, the monetary losses pale in comparison to the loss of human lives incurred. Last year, 304,000 people lost their lives in these disasters, representing the highest number since 1976.

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