disasters than 2007, the world’s number two re-insurer says 2008 was more destructive in terms of lives lost and financial cost. German based Re in its annual assessment blamed two events as the primary causes – Cyclone Nargis which struck Myanmar and China’s Sichuan earthquake.
Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar from May 2nd to the 3rd and killed more than 135,000 people and left more than one million homeless. Storm surge from the cyclone travelled 25 miles inland with water up to 10 feet deep. Soon after that, an earthquake struck China’s Sichuan province, leaving 70,000 dead, 18,000 missing and almost five million homeless. That area of China is particularly prone to major earthquakes and the Chinese infrastructure is entirely inadequate to deal with such temblors.
Other notable natural disasters in the year that is coming to a close:
Approximately 1,000 people died in Afghanistan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan from a severe cold snap in January.
635 perished when floods struck India, Nepal and Bangladesh in August and September.
Typhoon Fengshen killed 557 people in China and the Philippines in June.
Earthquakes in Pakistan left 300 dead in October.
In terms of financial losses, over $200 billion was realized but that was below the record of $232 billion set in 2005. Insured losses in 2008 were $45 billion, 50% higher than in 2007. Adjusted for inflation, 2008 was the third most expensive year for natural disaster losses in history. The number one spot was 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina struck, and the number two year is 1995, when the Kobe earthquake hit Japan.
Notable financial losses include:
Six hurricanes that struck the United States causing insured losses of $10 billion, by far the insurance industry’s largest catastrophe of the year.
Europe did not escape unscathed as a system called Emma caused $2 billion worth of damage in March.
Emma was followed up with Hilal in May and June which caused $1.1 billion in losses.
Here in the United States we are far removed from disasters that claim tens of thousands of lives but a look back at 2008 provides are scary reminder that these events can and do occur.