Natural disasters killed 20,000 people in 2013

Natural disasters killed about twice as many people in 2013 as in the previous year, but last year's figure is still well below the average seen for the past decade, a global insurance company said Tuesday.

In a report Tuesday, German insurance company Munich Re said that there were about 880 major natural disasters across the world in 2013, which cost about $125 billion and ended the lives of some 20,000 people. The insured cost was smaller, at $31 billion.

The human toll was more than double the 2012 figure, but both are well below the average seen for the past decade, which has seen 106,000 people per year, on average, lose their lives to natural disasters such as hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes.

Although the death toll rose, the economic toll shrank from $173 billion and insured losses of $65 billion in 2012.

The costliest natural disasters were summer hailstorms in Germany, floods in Central Europe, and storms and tornadoes in the United States.

Typhoon Haiyan, which slammed into the Phillipines late in the year was "probably the strongest tropical storm ever to make landfall," the report said. More than 6,000 people were killed in the storm, and millions were left homeless.

Overall, the financial toll of Haiyan is believed to be around $10 billion, about five per cent of the country's GDP. But insured losses from the storm will end up being far smaller, probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Munich Re said.

The second largest single event was mudslides in India in June, which killed 5,500 people.

The Atlantic storm season typically results in the insurance industry's biggest losses for the year, but last year's hurricane season was one of the quietest in the last 20 years with the fewest hurricanes since 1982.

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