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Counting the Costs: Thunderstorms and Earthquakes Leave $250 Billion in Destruction in 2023

Counting the Costs: Thunderstorms and Earthquakes Leave $250 Billion in Destruction in 2023

According to a recent report by Munich Re, destructive thunderstorms and devastating earthquakes in 2023 resulted in global damages totaling $250 billion. The figures highlight the ongoing impact of extreme weather events and natural disasters on economies worldwide. Despite the absence of any “mega-disasters” in industrialized countries, the report warns that losses, especially from weather-related events, are likely to rise in the future if resilience measures are not prioritized.


Thunderstorm Losses


The report emphasizes that 2023 witnessed an unprecedented number of severe regional storms, particularly in North America and Europe. In North America alone, thunderstorms caused around $66 billion in damages, with $50 billion covered by insurance. Europe experienced thunderstorm losses of $10 billion, of which $8 billion was insured. Munich Re highlights that these high losses from thunderstorms are a concerning trend, and smaller to mid-sized events, known as “secondary perils,” are expected to contribute to rising loss statistics in the coming years.


Earthquake Devastation


In addition to thunderstorms, earthquakes also played a significant role in the extensive damages of 2023. The report reveals that the number of deaths caused by natural disasters surged to 74,000, far surpassing the annual average of 10,000 over the past five years. Earthquakes accounted for approximately 85% of these deaths, with a staggering 63,000 lives lost. This marked the highest death toll from earthquakes since 2010.


Notable Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria


Among the destructive earthquakes in 2023, a series of tremors in Turkey and Syria in early February stood out. These earthquakes resulted in overall economic losses of approximately $50 billion. The impact was devastating, with over 55,000 fatalities and an additional 100,000 people injured. The stark difference in the death toll between these earthquakes and a similar magnitude earthquake in Japan highlights the importance of preparedness and building codes. The report suggests that Japan’s better-prepared infrastructure and adherence to stringent building codes played a crucial role in mitigating the loss of life.


The Urgent Need for Resilience


Munich Re’s chief climate and geo scientist, Ernst Rauch, underscores the significance of resilience in the face of increasing natural disasters. He warns that without a stronger focus on resilience, losses, particularly from weather-related events, will continue to rise. Rauch emphasizes that the climate crisis is contributing to more frequent and intense extreme weather events, making the need for proactive measures even more critical. Resilience efforts should encompass not only economic considerations but also social challenges that arise in the aftermath of disasters.

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