(Photo: Reuters/Roman Ranoco)
Despite what might have seemed like another year of increasingly devastating extreme weather, natural disasters caused comparatively less damage and fewer deaths in 2013 than recent years, according to a new report by European reinsurer Munich Re.
To be sure, 2013 saw a total of 880 natural disasters, a number that was above the annual average for the past 10 years. And some of these were incredibly destructive — even unprecedented. Munich Re describes Supertyphoon Haiyan, which killed over 6,000 people and left millions homeless, as "probably the strongest recorded cyclone ever to make landfall." It also notes that the flooding which hit Alberta in June was, at a total economic loss of $6.1 billion, the "costliest natural catastrophe in Canada ever."
But even so, the over 20,000 deaths caused by natural disasters in 2013 was significantly below the yearly average of 106,000 over the previous decade. The same was true of the $134 billion in total damage, which was below the average of $198 billion.
One reason for the decline in fatalities and financial losses, the report argues, is preparedness. “Several of the events of 2013 illustrated how well warnings and loss minimisation measures can restrict the impact of natural catastrophes," said Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek in a press release. Hamburg, for example, invested billions into protection measures against flooding after a storm surge led to 367 deaths in 1962. This year, meanwhile, when the River Elbe rose to levels even higher than those faced in 1962, the city suffered no major losses.
Another reason for the relative low losses was a decline in hurricanes hitting North America last year. But that's a trend that Munich Re predicts will not hold over the coming years. The company also warns that much of the world still needs to do more to protect itself from natural disasters. The company also warns that much of the world still needs to do more to protect itself from natural disasters, as evidenced by the destruction wrought by Haiyan and the $16.3 billion in damages caused by June floods in Germany.
5 Largest Natural Disasters by Overall Losses
- Central European floods - $16.3 billion
- Typhoon Haiyan - $10.7 billion
- April earthquake in China - $7.3 billion
- Albertan floods - $6.1 billion
- Typhoon Fitow - $5.4 billion
Via USA Today