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Disasters dent insurers’ year

$77 billion global payout in ’12 is 3rd highest on record

– Insurance claims paid out because of natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2012 totaled $77 billion globally, making it the third costliest year on record, a leading Swiss firm said Wednesday.

The tab covered by insurance companies represents only about two-fifths of the $186 billion in economic losses, not to mention the 14,000 lives lost, from the more than 300 catastrophes and disasters around the globe last year, according to Zurich-based Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd., known as Swiss Re.

But the vast majority of that damage, it said, was because of “large-scale weather events” in the U.S. such as Hurricane Sandy that alone accounted for $70 billion in economic losses, of which $35 billion were insured losses – nearly half the total in last year’s paid claims worldwide.

The insured payouts of $77 billion represent a big drop from 2011, which Swiss Re called the costliest year on record because of earthquakes and flooding in Asia Pacific – and might have been far higher had more people been able to afford insurance.

“However, large parts of the globe that are prone to weather extremes were not able to rely on financial relief due to low insurance penetration,” Swiss Re chief economist Kurt Karl said.

By contrast, because of the high amount of coverage in North America, about $65 billion of the region’s $119 billion in economic losses were covered by insurance, according to industry officials.

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