- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

ZURICH (AP) — Natural and man-made disasters that killed 112,000 people this year caused an estimated $80 billion in insured losses, making 2005 the world’s costliest year for insurers, Swiss Reinsurance Co. said yesterday.

Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest reinsurer, said catastrophes caused total financial losses — most of which were uninsured — of about $225 billion.

Earthquakes were the major killer, with 87,000 people dying in the Oct. 8 Pakistan quake, the company said. Overall, earthquakes claimed more than 90,000 lives in 2005. Damage from the Pakistan quake was in the range of $5 billion.

The hurricanes that hit North America caused the most expensive damage to buildings, vehicles and infrastructure, Swiss Re said. The widespread flooding and devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina along the U.S. Gulf Coast contributed to a total economic loss of $135 billion. Hurricanes Rita and Wilma each added $15 billion.

A March 28 earthquake of magnitude 8.7 — probably an aftershock of the Dec. 26, 2004, quake that created the Indian Ocean tsunami — shook northern Sumatra and caused more than 2,600 deaths, the company said. A Feb. 22 earthquake in Iran killed more than 600 people.

“The high death toll from these events is due to the high seismicity, but also to poor building standards in the regions affected,” according to a Swiss Re statement. “Storms and floods added to the casualty count.

“More than 1,600 people perished when Hurricane Stan ripped through Central America early in October. Hurricane Katrina claimed more than 1,200 lives in the U.S. in late August. And in July, floods in India drowned 1,150 people.”

Swiss Re said more than 90 percent of the 112,000 catastrophe victims worldwide lost their lives in Asia.

Reinsurers like Swiss Re sell backup insurance to other insurance companies, spreading risk so that major losses can be covered.

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