Swiss Re says disaster losses hit $105b in first half of this year

ZURICH (AFP) – Total losses caused by natural and man-made disasters hit an estimated US$77 billion (S$105 billion) in the first half of 2021, Swiss reinsurance giant Swiss Re said on Thursday (Aug 12).

The Zurich-based group, which acts as an insurer for insurers, said severe weather events including winter storm Uri in the United States and June storms in Germany and its neighbours pushed up its losses.

“Of the total estimated economic losses in the first half of 2021, US$74 billion were caused by natural catastrophes, while man-made disasters triggered an additional US$3 billion,” Swiss Re said in a statement.

The reinsurer said that extreme heat in June shattered temperature records in western North America, which led to wildfires in southern California.

“The effects of climate change are manifesting in warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, more erratic rainfall patterns and greater weather extremes,” said Mr Martin Bertogg, Swiss Re’s head of catastrophe perils.

“Taken together with rapid urban development and accumulation of wealth in disaster-prone areas, secondary perils such as winter storms, hail, floods or wildfires lead to ever higher catastrophe losses.”

Going into the second half of the year, July saw severe flooding cause property destruction and loss of life in Europe and China.

Meanwhile, this month’s wildfires in Turkey, Greece and Italy, fuelled by extreme heat, are expected to lead to further losses.

“The experience so far in 2021 underscores the growing risks of these perils, exposing ever larger communities to extreme climate events,” Mr Bertogg said.

He said Uri reached the loss magnitude expected of peak perils such as hurricanes.

“The insurance industry needs to upscale its risk assessment capabilities for these lesser-monitored perils to maintain and expand its contribution to financial resilience,” he said.

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