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Munich Re estimates 2019 overall nat cat losses at $150B; 35% insured

Natural catastrophes caused overall losses of $150 billion in 2019, of which $52 billion were insured, in line with the inflation-adjusted average of the past 30 years, Munich Re reported.

The insured portion of overall losses, slightly above 35%, was in line the average of the past decade, reflecting the ongoing lack of insurance in emerging and developing countries. About 9,000 deaths occurred as a result of 820 natural catastrophes in 2019, below the 15,000 count in 2018 and well off the 52,000 average over the past 30 years.

Typhoons Hagibis and Faxai in Japan were the costliest catastrophes of 2019 in terms of both insured and overall losses. Preliminary estimates place overall losses from Hagibis at $17 billion and insured losses at about $10 billion. Meanwhile, estimates place overall losses from Faxai at about $9 billion, with $7 billion in insured losses due to the greater share of more heavily insured storm losses.

Overall, the typhoon season in the northwest Pacific was close to the long-term average in terms of the number of storms, Munich Re said.

Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas was the strongest hurricane of the Atlantic season, generating overall losses of $5.6 billion, a small portion of which impacted the U.S., and insured losses of $4 billion. Overall losses in the U.S. during the 2019 hurricane season amounted to $3 billion, of which $2 billion were insured.

The U.S. was also affected by a thunderstorm season that brought more tornadoes than the long-term average, as well as flooding exacerbated by a strong snowmelt. There were approximately $24 billion of overall losses from these events in the U.S., of which $14 billion were insured.

Cyclone Idai in Mozambique caused over 1,000 deaths and overall losses of $2.3 billion, of which almost nothing was insured. The losses correspond to about a tenth of Mozambique's GDP. The country was also hit by Cyclone Kenneth shortly afterward.

Europe faced a combination of heatwaves and severe hailstorms, including one in Germany in June in which golf ball-sized hail led to nearly €1 billion in damages, of which about three-fourths was insured. Overall losses from the European summer storms were $2.5 billion, of which approximately $900 million were insured.

Meanwhile, overall losses in California from wildfires reached $1.1 billion, of which about $800 million was insured. The ongoing bushfires in Australia, which are expected to continue through January and February, also resulted in substantial losses.