Top 5 Natural Catastrophes for 2011

Munich Re and the I.I.I. have released their list of top disasters for the first half of 2011 based on insured losses. According to the two groups, an accumulation of severe natural catastrophes makes 2011 the highest-ever loss year on record, even after just six months.

The numbers bear out the facts. There was $265B in economic losses up to the end of June, which easily exceeds the total figure for 2005, previously the costliest year to date ($220B for the year as a whole).

Altogether, the loss amount was more than five times higher than the first-half average for the past 10 years. The insured losses, around $60B, were also nearly five times greater than the average since 2001.

Follow along as we revisit the top five disasters during the first half of 2011, ranked by the amount of insured losses incurred. We also provide the total number of fatalities and overall economic losses for each of these catastrophes. 


Australian Flooding

Dec. 2010-Jan. 2011

Australian Flooding

A number of extreme weather-related natural catastrophes hit the Austrialian continent in the first half of 2011. Flooding in Queensland hit the city of Brisbane following the heaviest rainfall for decades. For the first time in state history, all three major rivers flooded simultaneously. While the first big Australian flood occurred at the end of 2010, flooding continued well into January 2011. Altogether, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were flooded and large open-pit mines had to be temporarily closed.

Fatalities: 35

Overall Losses: $7.3B

Insured Losses: $2.6B

 Australian Flooding


U.S. Severe Storm/Tornadoes

May 20-25, 2011

Joplin Missouri Devastation

This stretch of tornado outbreaks affected Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota, and Kansas, including the devastating EF5 twister that leveled the Missouri town of Joplin on May 22.

Fatalities: 170

Overall Losses: $7B

Insured Losses: $4.9B 

Joplin Missouri Devastation


U.S. Severe Storm/Tornadoes

April 22-28, 2011

Tuscaloosa Tornado Damage

More than 330 tornadoes struck five Southern states during this time period, including one that razed the town of Tuscaloosa, Ala. Also severely hit were towns in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Fatalities: 350

Overall Losses: $7.5B

Insured Losses: $5.1B 

Tuscaloosa Tornado Damage



New Zealand Earthquake

April 22-28, 2011

New Zealand Earthquake Feb. 2011

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake that shook the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, in February caused very high economic losses due to the fact that the ground motion was amplified by the reflection of seismic waves off an extinct volcano complex situated nearby. There was also widespread ground deformation. Moreover, buildings that had sustained damage from an earlier quake in September 2010 were now completely destroyed by the tremors.

Fatalities: 181

Overall Losses: $20B

Insured Losses: >$10B  

New Zealand Earthquake Feb. 2011


Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

March 11, 2011

 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

By far, the Japan earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in March was the top natural catastrophe for causing insured losses in the first half of 2011. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the strongest ever registered in Japan, is also the costliest natural catastrophe on record—even more expensive than Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which caused economic losses in the order of $125B. Nevertheless, estimated claims burden for the insurance industry will not attain the level of insured losses caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Fatalities: 15,500

Overall Losses: $210B

Insured Losses: ~$30B  

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

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