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Natural catastrophes will grow with climate change: re-insurer

By AFP (Agence France Press) - December 28, 2007

Natural catastrophes in 2007 were more frequent and costlier than a year earlier and climate change will make them more expensive still, the world’s second-biggest re-insurer, Munich Re, said Thursday.

There were 950 natural catastrophes in 2007 compared with 850 in 2006, the highest number since the group started compiling its closely watched annual report in 1974.

The total cost of disasters in 2007 was 75 billion dollars (51.5 billion euros), while the bill for 2006 was 50 billion dollars.

The 2007 figure was however far below the record figure of 220 billion dollars in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina and a earthquake in Pakistan caused devastation.

The most damaging event of 2007 was an earthquake in Japan in July which caused 12.5 billion dollars of damage, while insurers took the biggest hit from the Kyrill storm which ripped through Europe in January, costing 5.8 billion dollars.

Catastrophes in developing and emerging countries caused most of the 20,000 deaths in 2007, with 3,300 people losing their lives in Cyclone Sidr alone, which struck Bangladesh in November.

Floods in Britain were the second costliest event to insurers and Munich Re said the high incidence of floods and storms in 2007 was a sign of things to come if global warming continued unchecked.

“These events cannot, of course, be attributed solely to climate change, but they are in line with the pattern that we can expect in the long term: severe storms, more heavy rainfall and a greater tendency towards flooding,” said Peter Hoeppe, head of the company’s Re’s Geo Risks Research Department.