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Disasters Killed 17,000 in 2000

January 10, 2001

GENEVA (AP) _ Major catastrophes, including widespread flooding and the mass killing of members of a doomsday cult, claimed 17,000 lives in 2000 and caused losses totaling $38 billion, a company that monitors world disasters said Wednesday.

The biggest single loss of life came from flooding in India and Bangladesh at the end of August, where 1,200 people died, the Swiss Reinsurance Co. said in a preliminary report on its annual catastrophe review. Incidents of flooding were responsible for four of the top five disasters in 2000.

``The number of fatalities from man-made disasters _ almost 9,000 _ was significantly above the average for the past decade,″ the company, widely known as SwissRe, said.

``That two-thirds of these fatalities resulted from traffic catastrophes on land, water and in the air testifies to increased mobility.″

The deaths in Uganda of some 780 people belonging to the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments was the fourth most deadly catastrophe of the year, said the company, known as SwissRe. Police are treating the deaths as murders.

Of the $38 billion in damages, insurers will have to pick up the bill for $11 billion. Floods alone accounted for $2.5 billion _ ``a reference to the often underestimated flood loss potential.″

Only one disaster _ the Tokai floods in Japan on Sept. 10 _ cost insurers more than $1 billion. The floods are estimated to have caused $7.8 billion damage, of which $1.04 billion was insured.

Among man-made disasters, the most costly for insurers was an explosion in a Kuwaiti oil refinery that cost $400 million.

SwissRe said the losses were in line with the average for the 1990s and were substantially down from 1999, which was the second most expensive year in insurance history.

Disasters in 1999 cost the lives of 105,000 people _ nearly half of them following mudslides in Venezuela _ and a series of storms and earthquakes contributed to estimated damage of $100 billion, of which $28.6 billion was insured.

``The accumulation of storms and earthquakes striking highly populated areas in 1999 was purely random _ as was their absence in the year 2000,″ SwissRe said.

``It is assumed that the trend toward high losses will continue uninterrupted.″

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On the Net:

SwissRe site: http://www.swissre.com

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