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Largest 2012 Global Disasters: Hurricane Sandy, Drought

January 25, 2013

By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

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The U.S. had the world`s two costliest natural disasters in 2012, according to a report released Thursday by global reinsurance firm Aon Benfield, which is based in Chicago.

The largest global disasters of 2012 were Hurricane Sandy (with a cost of $65 billion) and the year-long Midwest/Plains drought ($35 billion), according to the company`s "Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report."

The $35 billion is one of the first estimates of the U.S. drought cost, which "comes from a combination of anticipated losses sustained by the agricultural sector and other factors, such as business interruption," Aon Benfield meteorologist Steve Bowen says.

Sandy and the drought accounted for nearly half the world`s economic losses but, owing to higher insurance penetration in the U.S., 67% of insured losses globally, the report states.

The U.S. alone accounted for nearly 90% of all insured losses in 2012.

Total economic losses include the entire cost of an event, while insured losses are the amount of economic losses that are covered by insurance, Bowen says.

Global natural disasters in 2012 combined to cause economic losses of $200 billion, just above the 10-year average of $187 billion.

All told, there were 295 separate events, compared with an average of 257.

"Despite growing support for `the new normal` theory of a world dominated by rapidly escalating global catastrophe losses, our study highlights that 2012 returned to a more normal level of losses after the extreme economic and insured losses of 2011," the report states.

While nominal catastrophe losses are increasing at an alarming rate, economic losses as a percent of global GDP -- a measure appropriately normalized for inflation and economic development -- has remained relatively stable though the past 30 years, it continues.

The deadliest event of 2012 was Super Typhoon Bopha, which left more than 1,900 people dead after making landfall in the Philippines in December.

The number of human fatalities caused by natural disasters in 2012 was approximately 8,800, with nine of the top 10 events occurring outside the U.S.

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Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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Story Image: A block of homes in Atlantic City, N.J., is destroyed by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge in late October 2012. (Associated Press)

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