Natural Disasters Killed Over
220,000 Worldwide in 2008
BERLIN: Natural disasters killed over 220,000 people in
2008, making it one of the most devastating years on
record and underlining the need for a global climate
deal, the world's number two reinsurer said Monday.
Although the number of natural disasters was lower than
in 2007, the catastrophes that occurred proved to be
more destructive in terms of the number of victims and
the financial cost of the damage caused, Germany-based
Munich Re said in its annual assessment.
"This continues the long-term trend we have been
observing. Climate change has already started and is
very probably contributing to increasingly frequent
weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes,"
Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said.
Most devastating in terms of human fatalities was
Cyclone Nargis, which lashed Myanmar from May 2 to 3,
killing more than 135,000 people and leaving more than
one million homeless.
Just days later an earthquake shook China's Sichuan
province, leaving 70,000 dead, 18,000 missing and almost
five million homeless, according to official figures,
Munich Re said.
Around 1,000 people died in a severe cold snap in
January in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, while
635 perished in August and September in floods in India,
Nepal and Bangladesh.
Typhoon Fengshen killed 557 people in China and the
Philippines in June, while earthquakes in Pakistan in
October left 300 dead. Six tropical cyclones also
slammed into the southern United States, including Ike,
which with insured losses of $10 billion, was the
industry's costliest catastrophe of the year.
In Europe, an intense low-pressure system called Emma
caused $2 billion worth of damage in March, while a
storm dubbed Hilal in late May and early June left $1.1
billion worth of damage.
The earthquake in Sichuan province was the most
expensive overall single catastrophe of 2008, causing
around $85 billion worth of damage, helping to make the
year the third most expensive on record, Munich Re said.
With $200 billion worth of damage, only 2005, when a
large number of hurricanes slammed into the southern
United States, and 1995, year of the Kobe earthquake in
Japan, wreaked more destruction since records began in
According to provisional estimates from the World
Meteorological Organisation, 2008 was the tenth-warmest
year since the beginning of routine temperature
recording and the eighth warmest in the northern
The world needed "effective and binding rules on CO2
emissions, so that climate change is curbed and future
generations do not have to live with weather scenarios
that are difficult to control", board member Jeworrek