Weather and Natural Disasters

Natural disaster losses declined in 2014

Boasting an unusually quiet hurricane season, 2014 was one of the least costly years in recent memory in terms of natural disasters.

While roughly 21,000 people were killed by natural disasters in 2013, there were only about 7,700 fatalities reported last year, according to insurer Munich Re. Similarly, 2014 saw overall losses from these natural catastrophes total about $110 billion—the previous year claimed about $140 billion in damage, the firm said. In addition to cosmic luck, this decrease could also be the result of better planning.

Cyclone Hudhud hit India's east coast, killing at least six people and leaving behind a trail of destruction in Andhra Pradesh and neighboring Odisha, on October 12, 2014 in Visakhapatnam.
Arun Sharma | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

"Though tragic in each individual case, the fact that fewer people were killed in natural catastrophes last year is good news. And this development is not a mere coincidence," Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said in a press release. "In many places, early warning systems functioned better, and the authorities consistently brought people to safety in the face of approaching weather catastrophes, for example before Cyclone Hudhud struck east coast and Typhoon Hagupit hit the coast of the Philippines"

2013's natural disasters were also not particularly costly: That year's 21,000 fatalities was well below the 10-year average of 97,000, the firm said. Still, Munich Re emphasized that the recent good fortune will not necessarily be the beginning of a trend.

"...the lower losses in 2014 should not give us a false sense of security, because the risk situation overall has not changed. There is no reason to expect a similarly moderate course in 2015. It is, however, impossible to predict what will happen in any individual year," Jeworrek said.

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At the beginning of 2014, Munich Re said it was expecting more frequent and increasingly intense natural disasters in part because of rising sea levels.

The first part of that prediction may have been accurate: 980 loss-related natural catastrophes were registered, the firm said, adding that this is significantly higher than the 10-year average of 830 incidents.

One reasons for the relatively lower cost of natural disasters in 2014 was the quiet hurricane season in the North Atlantic, according to Munich Re. Last year saw only eight strong (and therefore named) hurricanes, while the long-term historical average is about 11.