Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
News from the wire:
DISASTERS: 2000 Sets Record For Catastrophes
The world was hit by a record number of natural disasters last year, and global warming and a rising population could aggravate the situation, according to Munich Re, the worlds largest reinsurance company. The number of natural disasters rose by more than 100 last year, to 850, Munich Re reported. The company noted, however, that the number of deaths was much lower than in 1999 because less populated areas were affected. Some 10,000 people died as a result of these disasters, compared to 75,000 in 1999.
Natural disasters in 2000 caused an estimated $7.5 billion in damages. The years greatest disaster was the flooding that left 500,000 homeless in Mozambique.
Global warming has to be slowed down, said Gerhard Berz, head of the companys geo-science research group. Otherwise the risk situation for insurers in many of the worlds regions will intensify (Reuters/Baltimore Sun, 29 Dec).
Natural catastrophes 2000: Property damage and bodily injury much lower than in recent years / But new record number of loss events / No all-clear for long-term trend.
Munich Re, the worlds leading reinsurer, has presented an initial analysis of the loss events caused by natural hazards in 2000. The number of natural catastrophes reached a new absolute high, with more than 850 catastrophes recorded worldwide, one hundred more than in the previous record year of 1999 and two hundred more than the average for the 1990s. The effects in the year 2000 were less severe because the natural catastrophes, though large in number, mainly happened to affect less densely populated areas; nevertheless, about 10,000 people were killed (previous year: 75,000).
The losses were lower
than in the previous year too. Economic losses came to more than US$
30bn (previous year: US$ 100bn), with insured losses accounting for US$
7.5bn (previous year: US$ 22bn). The lack of major earthquakes
and the moderate cyclone season combined with a general absence of losses
in heavily populated areas made 2000 a comparatively inexpensive year
as far as losses are concerned.
So far there has only been one really great catastrophe in the year 2000: the February/March floods in Mozambique, which made half a million people homeless and attracted attention throughout the world for weeks. Altogether, five million people were immediately affected by the torrents. All other parts of the world also recorded severe floods which will find a place in the history of natural catastrophes: Floods in northern and northeastern India from August to October with some 1,450 fatalities and economic losses amounting to US$ 1.2bn. Massive floods in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Thailand in the autumn, which put hundreds of thousands of houses under water. Storm surges, mudflows, and landslides in the Swiss and Italian Alps (Valais, Aosta Valley) in mid-October, which generated economic losses of about US $ 8.5bn. Insured losses will probably total roughly US$ 470 m. For weeks on end, from mid-October to mid-December, there were floods of historical proportions throughout Britain, causing property damage of about US $ 1.5bn, 50% of which is likely to have been insured (around US$ 700 m).
The cyclone season in the Pacific and the North Atlantic produced a typical number of hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones in 2000; fortunately, the exposed countries came off lightly:
In August, the super-typhoon Bilis, which raged in the western Pacific, presented Taiwan with a bill of only a little more than US$ 100m. Prapiroon, one of the most violent typhoons of recent years in South Korea, which swept over the peninsula in the last few days of August, failed to generate the floods that had been expected. The United States did not suffer any of the dramatic and generally devastating landfalls that had marked previous years.
Central America was the only region to be hit by a severe hurricane: Keith, which reached wind speeds of 215 km/h, equivalent to stage 4 on the five-stage Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, affected Belize, parts of Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Europe has so far been spared major winter storms too; the year before, it was already late December when Anatol, Lothar, and Martin brought about losses of historical dimensions (totalling US$ 17.1bn, of which US$ 10.4bn was insured).
As far as the other natural catastrophes are concerned including winter damage, droughts, and forest fires the devastating conflagration in the United States caused major concern. After an extended period of drought, thousands of square kilometres of forest stood in flames for weeks on end, mainly in the western United States and in New Mexico. Thousands of people had to be evacuated. Fortunately, relatively few houses actually caught fire. All the same, losses came to way over US$ 1bn.
Dry weather and drought also hit many countries in Europe. In May and June a severe heat wave destroyed harvest crops in the southeast of Europe, particularly in Romania. Economic losses are estimated to exceed US$ 300m.
In spite of the overall loss balance being favourable in 2000, there is no justification for speaking of a change in the trend as far as loss and damage from natural catastrophes is concerned. Once before, in 1997, the trend towards more frequent and more substantial natural catastrophes appeared to be interrupted for a short time by a year with comparatively little loss or damage, only to continue with unbroken force the year after. On account of the growth in the worlds population, which in the highly exposed areas of the world and in particular in the major conurbations is even increasing at an over-proportionate rate, and the rise in the concentration of property values, the losses generated by natural catastrophes must be expected to continue increasing in the future.
The latest forecasts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which will shortly be published in the Panels third report, show that the subject of climate change must be taken even more seriously than before. Neither in terms of the expected rises in temperature nor in terms of other important aspects like, for instance, the rise in sea levels, is there any justification for sounding the all-clear. It is against this backdrop that Dr. Gerhard Berz, Head of Munich Res Geoscience Research Group makes his appeal: We see the failure of the climate summit in The Hague in November 2000 as a major setback and hope that at least the renegotiations in the summer of 2001 will result in agreements that are carried by all the parties involved. Global warming must be curbed at all cost. It is to be feared that the risk situation will deteriorate in many regions of the earth and thus affect insurers too.
At any rate Munich Re reckons with a distinct increase in weather-related and climate-related natural catastrophes. Already today, these are responsible for the lions share of insured catastrophe losses. This is demonstrated by the year just coming to an end.
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