(AFP) – Global losses from natural disasters hit $138 billion in 2012, with half the sum claimed by drought and Hurricane Sandy in the United States, the UN said Thursday.
Hurricane Sandy, which lashed the US east coast in October, caused some $50 billion of the losses recorded in 2012, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said.
The next most costly disaster was also in the US, where a drought centred in the south of the country cost $20 billion.
It was the third year in a row in which losses linked to natural disasters topped $100 billion, and the 10th in the past three decades, UNISDR said.
“A review of economic losses caused by major disaster events since 1980 shows that since the mid-90s there has been a rise,” UNISDR chief Elizabeth Longworth told reporters.
“This has turned into an upwards trend as confirmed by losses from last year when, despite no mega-disaster such as a major urban earthquake, economic losses are conservatively estimated in the region of $138 billion,” she said.
The worst year in terms of economic losses was 2011, when they hit $371 billion, the highest figure on record.
The bulk of that damage was due to Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, which led to $214 billion in losses.
UNISDR said the sums only related to insured losses, and therefore failed to reflect the economic damage inflicted on developing countries where only a small percentage of the population have insurance.