Preliminary Swiss Re sigma estimates of catastrophe losses in 2007: Impacted by high losses from flood and storm damage in Europe

18 December 2007, Zurich

According to initial estimates, more than 20 000 people were killed by natural and man-made catastrophes in 2007. The catastrophes led to overall financial losses of USD 61 billion across the globe. Property insurers had to contend with losses totalling USD 25 billion.

Three insured losses running into the billions in Europe, two in North America and one in Asia, these are the preliminary estimates of catastrophe losses in 2007 mentioned in the forthcoming Swiss Re sigma on natural catastrophe losses (see Table of the most costly insurance losses). Although the insured losses, at USD 25 billion, were USD 9 billion higher than in the previous year, 2007 is below the long-term loss trend. The large losses occurred in the first half of the year and were concentrated in Europe. The second half of the year, as of 11 December 2007, has been less eventful. Over the course of the year, more than 20 000 people died in catastrophes. Bangladesh, for example, was hit several times by natural disasters, with Cyclone Sidr destroying extensive parts of the country's south-western region in Mid-November, at a cost of more than 4 000 lives. In July and August, the country was also hard hit by monsoon rains and landslides.

Property insurers pay out losses in excess of USD 22 billion for natural catastrophes

In 2007 Europe was unusually hard-hit by natural catastrophes. In January, Germany, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands reported losses from winter storm Kyrill. During the summer, the UK was also hit twice by heavy rains and flooding.

In the US, a winter storm struck the East Coast of the US in April, bringing with it heavy rainfall, which resulted in flooding. At the end of October, the Witch forest fires raged in California. As these woodland areas are densely populated, these fires caused extensive property damage, and are therefore referred to as urban forest fires. The fires in California are associated with the heat and extreme lack of rainfall.Japan was spared record losses, whereas Australia reported flood and storm damage in New South Wales (NSW) in June.

 .... and more than USD 2 billion for man-made catastrophes

Major man-made disasters caused insured losses in excess of USD 2 billion in 2007, with major industrial fires, explosions and aviation and spacecraft losses at the top of the list. Insured property losses were approximately of the same magnitude as those in 2006.

The most costly insured losses in 2007

Insured losses
(in USD m)
Date (start) Event


5 859


Winter storm Kyrill with winds up to 190 km/h


2 597


Rainfall, flooding (wave 1)


2 077


Rainfall, flooding (wave 2)


1 562


Storm, rainfall, flooding


1 100


Witch urban forest fires in California


1 000


Storm, flooding in NSW


Catastrophes with the most fatalities in 2007

Victims (dead and missing)

Date (start)



4 140


Cyclone Sidr, heavy rainfall, flooding


1 500


Heavy rainfall resulting in flooding

India, Bangladesh



Earthquake (MW 8.0); aftershocks




Monsoon rain, flooding, landslides




Heavy rainfall resulting in flooding

North Korea

Insured claims 1970-2007*

Definitions and selection criteria for sigma catastrophe statistics:

Natural catastrophes

Loss events triggered by natural forces

Man-made disasters

Loss events associated with human activities

Total losses

Losses with a direct economic impact

Insured property claims

Part of total loss covered by property insurance

Minimum selection criteria:

Total losses

USD 82m

Or: Insured property claims

Shipping: USD 16.5m

Aviation: USD 33m

Other: USD 41.1m

Or: Casualties

Dead or missing: 20

Injured: 50

Homeless: 2 000

Notes to editors

Swiss Re, the world's leading and most diversified global reinsurer, operates in more than 25 countries. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re offers financial services products that enable the risk-taking essential to enterprise and progress. The company's traditional reinsurance products and related services for property and casualty, as well as the life and health business are complemented by insurance-based corporate finance solutions and supplementary services for comprehensive risk management. Swiss Re is rated "AA-" by Standard, Poor's, "Aa2" by Moody's and "A+" by A.M. Best.