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Insurance companies paid out $45 billion in 2013 for natural catastrophes and man-made disasters around the world, including massive flooding, winter storms, tornadoes and hail, a Swiss firm said Wednesday.

The amount represents about a third of the $140 billion in economic losses from 308 catastrophes and disasters, according to a study from Swiss Re, a Zurich-based wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer.

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The total economic losses from catastrophic events were down from $196 billion in 2012 and well below the 10-year average of $190 billion. The number of victims in disaster events grew to around 26,000 in 2013 from 14,000 the previous year, the study says.

Global insured losses for 2013 represent a big drop from 2012 when there were $81 billion in paid claims, mainly from large-scale weather events in the USA, such as Superstorm Sandy.

"Despite 2013 being a relatively quiet year, we expect insured losses on average to continue to grow at a pace of doubling every 10 years," says Andrew Castaldi, a natural hazard expert for Swiss Re. "Overall, we were pretty lucky, especially in the United States, but we should never lose sight of how devastating these events can be.

"Wealthier nations experience larger economic losses and insured losses, while less wealthy nations experience greater loss of life and losses in terms of GDP," he says.

Of the 2013 insured losses, $37 billion were generated by natural catastrophes, with hail in Europe and floods in many regions being the main drivers.

Other findings from the Swiss Re report:

• North America had a total of $32 billion in damage, of which $19 billion was insured.

• Asia was hardest hit by natural catastrophes in terms of both economic losses and victims with $62 billion in economic losses and more than 20,000 victims. But only $6 billion was paid in claims, reflecting the region's relative lack of insurance. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, which brought some of the strongest winds ever recorded, left 7,500 people dead or missing and caused $12.5 billion in damage to the Philippines and Vietnam, with insured losses of just $1.5 billion.

• Europe suffered the two most expensive natural disasters in insurance terms. The first was the massive flooding in central and eastern Europe in May and June, after four days of heavy rain that caused large-scale damage across Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. It led to $4.1 billion in paid claims on $16.5 billion in economic losses. The second was the hail storm that hit Germany and France in late July, causing $3.8 billion in insurance payments on $4.8 billion in economic losses. Most of those claims — the highest ever caused by hail — came from heavily populated areas of Germany.

Contributing: Associated Press

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