Natural disasters across the world caused significantly lower losses than usual during the first half of 2018. According to data released by Munich Re, a reinsurance firm, overall losses were around $33 billion, the lowest level since 2005 when losses reached $29 billion after adjustments for inflation.
The company warns that the second half of the year usually brings higher losses. For example, in 2017 a series of major hurricanes - Harvey, Irma and Maria - pushed overall losses for the year to $340 billion.
Munich Re says the overall losses of $33 billion were roughly half those of 2017 and what it calls the "price-adjusted average" for the last 30 years.
Data registered 430 relevant natural disasters in the first half of 2018, more than the long-term average of 250. The relative absence of major disasters and "supercatastrophes" worldwide also kept the number of registered fatalities at a low level, the firm says. A total of around 3,000 people lost their lives in natural disasters between January and June 2018. The only years with fewer reported fatalities were 2014 and 1986.
The first six months of 2018 were marked by a relatively large number of small events, with the distribution per continent in line with long-term averages. The most notable concentration was in Asia, which accounted for 39 percent of the events. Storms were the largest category (50 percent) in the distribution by type of event. The reinsurser says this represents a deviation from the 39 percent in the long-term statistical series since 1980.
North America (including the Caribbean and Central America)
Winter storms and severe weather events, in particular in the U.S. and Canada, were the principal causes of losses that amounted to billions of dollars. At the beginning of March, a nor'easter winter storm caused overall losses of $2.2 billion. Severe weather losses in the first half of the year came to $10.4 billion. The volcanic eruptions on Hawaii and in Guatemala also attracted considerable attention, as well as causing substantial damage. Loss estimates for these events are still incomplete, Munich Re says.
A total of 32 events were registered in South America. Relatively minor earthquakes occurred in Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia, along with a variety of severe weather events that were followed by flash floods and landslides. These events claimed the lives of 77 people.
The costliest event, winter storm Friederike, struck Europe in January, causing overall losses of $2.7 billion. Losses were recorded in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Poland. At the start of January, winter storm Eleanor (known in Germany as Burglind) caused losses of $1.2 billion.
Between March and May, extensive rainfall in Kenya led to devastating floods in which more than 100 people were killed. Losses went well into the millions, and more than 100,000 people had to be brought to safety. No less than four tropical storms made landfall in May: cyclone Sagar in East Africa, cyclones Ava and Eliakim on Madagascar and cyclone Berguitta on the islands of Mauritius and Réunion.
The costliest events of the first half of the year mainly affected China. Winter losses from extreme weather in January and April, featuring long periods of frost and heavy snowfalls, came to around $2 billion. In late May, cyclone Mekunu struck Yemen and Oman causing widespread damage. An earthquake struck Osaka, Japan, in mid-June, causing damage to several thousand houses and infrastructure facilities. Loss estimates are not yet complete.
Australia and Oceania
This region was struck by a series of earthquakes. In the spring, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea were hit by several tremors. Almost 100 people lost their lives and overall losses came to around $300 million. Cyclone Gita made landfall in February, causing overall losses of $230 million in Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand. In March, drought, low humidity, high temperatures and high wind speeds helped spread bushfires in New South Wales, Australia. Almost 100 houses and buildings were damaged or destroyed. Overall losses are likely to be in excess of $100 million.