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Study: Environmental disasters caused $218 billion in economic losses in 2010

Posted On Fri, April 8, 2011

With non-stop media coverage of the earthquakes that have affected Japan and New Zealand, it may seem as though 2011 is the year of the quake. But if financial cost is any determination of how prevalent an environmental disaster is, 2010 will be hard to top.

According to Swiss Reinsurance, a global insurer that was founded in Switzerland in 1863, worldwide economic losses totaled $218 billion last year as a result of natural and man-made catastrophes, three times higher than the $68 billion totaled in 2009. Of the $218 billion, $43 billion was shouldered by home insurance companies.

While the study included all natural disasters - such as floods, tornadoes and hurricanes - the main contributor to the hefty total was earthquakes, as one-third of the losses resulted from them.

Thomas Hess, chief economist for Swiss Re, said floods were also quite devastating.

"Some of these flood events sadly affected countries with poor emergency preparedness and underdeveloped insurance markets," Hess said.

Almost all home insurance companies have flood insurance plans, but they're rarely included in a standard home insurance policy. The same goes for earthquake coverage. Usually, both have to be purchased separately.

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