San Miguel County Firefighters battle a brush fire along Japatul Road during the Valley Fire in Jamul, California, on September 6, 2020. — AFP

Economic losses caused by natural disasters totalled $120 billion in the first six months of the year, reinsurance giant Swiss Re said Wednesday, slightly less than last year but sharply above the 10-year average.

Losses — down from $123 billion in the same period of 2022 — were largely driven by a series of widespread storms in the United States, said the Zurich-based group, which acts as an insurer for insurers.

Overall losses from natural catastrophes between January and June were almost twice as high as the annual six-month average for the last ten years.

This has pushed up costs for insurers, with insured losses from natural catastrophes in the period at $50 billion, Swiss Re said, slightly up from the $48 billion covered by insurance companies in the same period last year.

The costliest disaster of the year to date was the earthquake in Turkey and Syria in February.

The devastating quake caused sweeping economic losses estimated at $34 billion, of which some $5.3 billion were covered by insurance.

But insurers paid out $35 billion in damage caused by severe storms in the first half of the year — nearly 70 percent of the total bill for insurers in the period, and almost all in the United States.

Meanwhile heavy rainfall in northern Italy caused the costliest weather-related event in the country since 1970, with estimated economic losses of $10 billion — most of which are uninsured, said Swiss Re.

The increased number of cyclones and floods in large cities and towns will continue to drive up the cost from natural disasters, warned Martin Bertogg, head of Catastrophe Perils at Swiss Re.

He said the growth in insured losses was “driven by a warming climate but even more so, by rapidly growing economic values in urbanized settings, globally.”

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