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Disasters led to $45B in insurance losses in 2013

GENEVA (AP) -- Disasters such as floods in Europe, winter storms in the U.S. and typhoons in Asia cost insurance companies $45 billion in 2013, a leading Swiss firm said Wednesday.

The sum represents only about a third of the $140 billion in economic losses, not to mention 26,000 lives lost, from 308 catastrophes and disasters around the globe last year, according to Zurich-based Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd., known as Swiss Re.

As a whole, Asia was the region that suffered the most, with $62 billion in economic losses and more than 20,000 victims. But only $6 billion was paid in claims, reflecting the region's relative lack of insurance.

Typhoon Haiyan left 7,500 people dead or missing and caused $12.5 billion in damage to the Philippines and Vietnam, with insured losses of just $1.5 billion.

Europe suffered the two most expensive natural disasters in insurance terms.

The first was the massive flooding in central and eastern Europe in May and June, after four days of heavy rain that caused large-scale damage across Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. It led to $4.1 billion in paid claims on $16.5 billion in economic losses.

The second was the hail storm that hit Germany and France in late July, causing $3.8 billion in insurance payments on $4.8 billion in economic losses. Most of those claims _ the highest ever caused by hail _ came from heavily populated areas of Germany.

Altogether, Europe had economic losses worth $33 billion for $15 billion in insurance payouts.

The U.S., which suffered severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and winter storms, had a total of $32 billion in damage of which $19 billion was insured.

The global figures for 2013 represent a big drop from 2012, when there were $81 billion in paid claims on $196 billion in economic losses, mainly from large-scale weather events in the U.S. such as Hurricane Sandy, Swiss Re said.

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