Natural Disasters Reported at Record Level in 2000

Natural disasters rose by 100 in 2000 to 850, taking 10,000 lives and $30 billion in damage, with some of the blame being placed on global warming by European insurer Munich Re.

Published: 28-Dec-2000

MUNICH (Reuters) - The world was hit by a record number of natural disasters in 2000 and global warming and a rising population are likely to make future years even worse, the world's largest reinsurer said Thursday.

Munich Re said the number of what it categorizes as natural disasters rose by more than 100 to 850 in 2000, although the number of deaths was much lower than in 1999 because less populated areas were affected.

It said 10,000 people died as a result of natural disasters in 2000 compared to 75,000 in 1999. Material damage was put at more than $30 billion in 2000.

"Accounting for the growth in world population and the rise in the concentration of property values, the losses caused by natural disasters must be expected to continue to rise in the future," Munich Re said.

"Global warming has to be slowed down. Otherwise the risk situation for insurers in many of the world's regions will intensify," said Gerhard Berz, head of its geo-science research group.

Munich Re said that since only $7.5 billion of the estimated damage caused by natural disasters in 2000 had been covered by insurance, it had actually been a relatively inexpensive year for policy underwriters.

Storms were clearly at the top of the list of disasters, accounting for 73 percent of all insured losses, while floods accounted for 23 percent of insured losses.

Flooding which hit Mozambique in February making half a million people homeless was the year's biggest catastrophe.

A series of devastating forest fires in the United States was the other major disaster, causing losses of more than $1 billion despite the fact that relatively few houses caught fire.

Dry weather and drought in Europe caused losses of more than $300 million when a severe heat wave in May and June destroyed crops in southeast Europe, particularly in Romania.

The cyclone season in the Pacific and North Atlantic produced a typical number of hurricanes and typhoons and cyclones, it said. The countries affected came off relatively lightly.

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