At US$ 330bn, overall losses in 2017 were far greater even than those in the extreme years of 2005 and 2008. Only the record year of 2011 with losses of US$ 350bn, due mainly to the Tohoku earthquake and floods in Thailand, has seen higher loss figures.
Insured losses in 2017 came to US$ 135bn, the highest figure in the period from 1980 to 2017. The Munich Re NatCatSERVICE recorded 710 relevant loss events, which is above the average for the last ten years. The average for the last decade is 605 registered events per year, compared with just 490 events over the last 30 years. The event statistics include all relevant loss events, based on different threshold values for property losses according to a country’s level of development. The statistics also include all loss events with fatalities.
Both overall and insured losses from natural disasters in 2017 were significantly higher than the corresponding averages for the last ten years, which, after adjustment for inflation, amount to US$ 170bn and US$ 49bn respectively. The hurricane season in the North Atlantic proved particularly costly, accounting for US$ 215bn in overall losses, of which US$ 92bn is expected to be insured. There were also two earthquakes in Mexico with a combined loss of over US$ 8bn, and widespread flooding in China which caused losses of more than US$ 6bn. Severe wildfires were raging in the USA until the end of the year. Losses from the October fires alone exceeded US$ 10bn, with the bulk of this amount – more than US$ 8bn – insured. By the end of the year therefore, losses from wildfires are likely to be substantially higher.
Roughly 93% of all events worldwide in 2017 were weather-related disasters. The macroeconomic impact was in the region of US$ 320bn, of which some US$ 133bn was insured. This makes 2017 the costliest year ever in terms of global weather disasters.
The long-term average for meteorological events since 1980 is around 41% of the overall nat cat claims burden. At 81%, the figure for 2017 represents a significant deviation from this average, and the proportion of insured losses is as high as 89%. In contrast, floods and climatological events each accounted for just 8%, and geophysical events for 3% of losses.
The 2017 distribution of loss events according to the principal peril groups of geophysical, meteorological, hydrological and climatological events showed a trend towards a greater number of floods. This type of hazard, which includes both river flooding and flash floods, accounted for 47% of loss events. The long-term average is around 40%. There were only minor changes in the other hazards, which comprised 50 earthquakes, 250 windstorms, 335 floods and 75 climatological events, such as wildfires, droughts and winter damage.
The 710 events recorded as relevant means that 2017 will join the list of years with the highest number of natural disasters: the 600 mark has been exceeded only five times, all of them in the last six years. A total of 19 events fall into Category 4, for especially devastating disasters. Almost two thirds of all the natural disasters registered occurred in North America, the Caribbean, Central America or Asia. This was above the long-term average of 59%.
The number of people worldwide who lost their lives in natural disasters in 2017 was some 10,000. Regrettably, this was a higher figure than in the previous year (9,650). However, compared to earlier periods, the year at least follows the long-term trend towards a reduction in the number of victims. The 10-year average, for example, is approximately 60,000, and the 30-year average 53,000.
Roughly two thirds of the fatalities in 2017 were from natural disasters in Asia, followed by 11% each in Africa and North America, and 4% in Europe.
The deadliest events over the last year were devastating floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh that were triggered by powerful monsoon rains. Some 2,700 people lost their lives there between June and October. An earthquake in Iran claimed the lives of almost 600 people, while a landslide killed 500 in Sierra Leone. Once again, a striking feature is that far more people die in natural disasters in emerging and developing countries than in industrialised countries, where protective measures are much more extensive and effective.