Insured losses from major natural catastrophes in 2019 totalled around US$53.0 billion, or 18% lower than the annual average since 2011, according to a report by Willis Re.
This continues a relative period of calm compared to 2017, when the total loss reached a peak of US$143 billion, according to the Summary of Natural Catastrophe Events 2019 published by the reinsurance arm of the global insurance brokerage and consultancy.
The total losses in 2019 were caused by a series of smaller and medium-sized events, due to the absence of very large natural catastrophe losses. In fact, the annual average of US$65 billion is driven upwards by peak annual losses of US$120 billion in 2011 and US$143 billion in 2017, where both years featured multiple events exceeding US$10 billion each. Excluding 2011 and 2017, the 2019 total is 14% above the annual average, the report said.
Japan was hit by the largest insured catastrophe losses in 2019, with Typhoon Faxai in September and Typhoon Hagibis in October delivering insured losses of around US$7billion and US$8 billion respectively.
In the US, the largest events were Hurricane Dorian, with wide ranging loss estimates, and a thunderstorm affecting the High and Central Plain and the eastern US, which brought insured losses of between US$3 billion and US$4 billion, Willis Re revealed. Elsewhere in the world, no billion-dollar losses were recorded. At the end of the year, the total reported loss cost of Australia’s wildfires, which crossed over from 2019 to 2020, reached roughly US$900 million, with losses now expected to exceed US$1 billion.
Furthermore, North America had the largest insured catastrophe-loss bill, with around 46% of the global total in 2019, closely followed by Asia-Pacific with 38%.
“The year will come as a relative relief to reinsurers, following the extremely costly events of 2017 and 2018. However, the year did bring the strongest-ever landfalling hurricane in the Atlantic, Hurricane Dorian,” said Vaughn Jensen, executive vice president and head of North America catastrophe analytics at Willis Re.