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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 March, 2005, 14:51 GMT
Disasters 'cost $123bn in 2004'
Insurers faced a record financial liability last year
Natural and man-made disasters killed more than 300,000 people in 2004 and caused damage worth $123bn (64bn) to property, a survey has said.

The survey from reinsurer Swiss Re puts the overall cost to insurers of property damage at $49bn.

But Swiss Re said the record financial liability was not the result of the tsunami which hit Asia just five days ahead of the end of the year.

Instead, windstorms in the Americas and Japan were the main culprits.

A total of 13 hurricanes, including Hurricane Ivan which devastated much of the Caribbean, hit the Americas during the year.

In Japan, 10 typhoons and an earthquake in the northern province of Niigata caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

The overall insured loss is more than twice the $23bn annual average since 1987.

In all, natural disasters cost insurers $46bn in property damage, the survey said.

In comparison, the cost to insurers of property damaged by man-made disasters such as fires and explosions was just $3bn.

Women search the posters of missing children in Indonesia
The tsunami's human toll was the worst of any disaster since 1970
With the exception of the attack on New York's World Trade Center in 2001, the cost of natural disasters has outstripped that of man-made catastrophes every year since 1989.

Tsunami toll

The tsunami, which struck on 26 December, accounted for more than 90% of the casualties in major disasters during 2004.

The tragedy was the biggest single catastrophe in human terms since the floods which killed 300,000 in Bangladesh in 1970 and the earthquake which flattened the Chinese city of Tangshan in 1976 at a cost of 255,000 lives.

The 20,000-odd other casualties measured by Swiss Re's survey during 2004 were mostly the result of windstorms and floods.

In all, Swiss Re recorded 330 major disasters in 2004 - 216 of which were man-made.

The figure confirmed a "discernible upward trend", Swiss Re said.

The rising financial toll, it warned, was due in part to a combination of the increasing frequency of windstorms and the growing concentration of insured assets in exposed coastal areas.

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24 Feb 05 |  South Asia
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At-a-glance: Countries hit
01 Feb 05 |  In Depth
Disaster claims 'less than $10bn'
28 Dec 04 |  Business
Picking up pieces in Ivan's trail
20 Sep 04 |  Americas


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