Frankfurt am Main (AFP) - Natural catastrophes worldwide were less devastating in the first half of 2017 than the average over the past 10 years, reinsurer Munich Re said Tuesday, while highlighting the role of climate change in severe US storms.
Some 3,200 people lost their lives to disasters between January and June, the German group found -- well short of the 10-year average of 47,000 for the period or the 5,100 deaths in the first half of 2016.
April floods and landslides in Colombia that claimed 329 lives were the deadliest single event.
Elsewhere, an April-June heatwave in India killed 264 people, while floods, landslides and avalanches claimed around 200 lives in Sri Lanka, 200 in Afghanistan and 200 Bangladesh.
Disasters inflicted a financial cost of around $41 billion in the first six months, Munich Re reported.
That was less than half of the $111 billion toll in the same period last year, or the average of $102 billion over the past 10 years.
The most costly single event was flooding in Peru between January and March, which killed 113 people and inflicted damage worth around $3.1 billion, followed by Cyclone Debbie's toll of 12 lives and $2.7 billion in Australia.
Three major storms in the United States, each causing around $2.0 billion of damage but no casualties, made up the rest of the top five costliest disasters.
"The high number of severe thunderstorms in the US is presumed to have been at least partially influenced by a natural climate phenomenon," the reinsurer said.
Warm water off the northeast coast of South America and a cooler ocean further west created weather pattens making tornadoes and hail more likely in the US, it said.
Twice as many tornadoes struck the US in the first quarter of 2017 as the average for the last 10 years, Munich Re researchers found.
The higher proportion of disasters in the US this year meant more victims were insured than usual.
Around $19.5 billion in damage was covered worldwide -- roughly half the total amount -- compared with an average of one-third in previous years.
In Europe, flooding in Germany and France caused 4.4 billion euros ($5.1 billion) of damage, around 1.7 billion of which was insured.