Deaths from disasters double in 2015 as planet heats up
At least 26,000 people died in heat waves, earthquakes, floods and other disasters during a year that was probably the warmest on record, more than double the number of deaths in 2014, Swiss Re AG said in an annual report.
Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters cost the world economy $85 billion, falling from $113 billion in 2014, according to preliminary figures from the company’s research unit. Insured losses dropped to $32 billion from $35 billion in 2014.
The deadliest event was the April earthquake in Nepal and neighboring countries that killed about 9,000 people and destroyed some 500,000 homes. Only about $160 million of the estimated $6 billion in economic losses were covered by insurance, Swiss Re said in a statement Friday.
The February winter storm in the U.S. was the costliest natural disaster for the industry, resulting in insured losses of more than $2 billion. A calmer-than-usual North Atlantic hurricane season kept the total global insured loss low.
More than 5,000 people died in heat waves throughout the summer in India, Pakistan, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In India and Pakistan temperatures soared to above 118 degrees Fahrenheit in May and June, the highest recorded since 1995, claiming over 3,000 victims.
This year was probably the warmest on record and 2016 could be hotter, according to the United Nations’ weather agency. El Nino, a naturally occurring weather pattern in the Pacific that causes extremes in temperatures, is expected to be one of the strongest on record, the World Meteorological Organization said in November.
World leaders reached an agreement this month on a plan to limit emissions from gases that scientists say are causing the earth to warm.
Insurance losses from man-made disasters rose to $9 billion from $7 billion in 2014. Claims of at least $2 billion are expected from the mid-August explosions in China’s port city of Tianjin, making that the biggest man-made loss ever in Asia for the industry.
Last year, 11, 000 people were killed in disasters. This year’s 26,000 fatalities include many migrants and refugees who died attempting to reach European shores, Swiss Re said.