Catastrophes like the Japan and New Zealand earthquakes, the Thai floods and Hurricane Irene cost the world economy a record $350 billion in 2011, according to the reinsurer Swiss Re.
"2011 will be the year with the highest catastrophe-related economic losses in history, at $350 billion," the company said in a statement, reported on News.com.au.
According to preliminary estimates, total insured losses for the global insurance industry from disasters reached $108 billion in 2011 — the second-highest figure of its kind on record and more than double the 2010 figure of $48 billion.
However, Swiss Re said: "2011 would have been the costliest year ever for the insurance industry if Japan had been more fully insured," said Swiss Re, referring to the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster in March.
"On top of people losing their loved ones, societies are faced with enormous financial losses that have to be borne by either corporations, relief organizations or governments and, ultimately, taxpayers," said Kurt Karl, Swiss Re's chief economist.
Total losses from the New Zealand quake stood at $15 billion but most of this was covered by insurers, Agence France-Presse cited Swiss Re as saying.
On top of the two quakes, severe flooding in Thailand and Australia this year triggered more than $10 billion in insurance claims.
Two tornadoes in the U.S. cost almost $14 billion in claims and the industry paid out nearly $5 billion in property damage following Hurricane Irene.
The total economic losses of $350 billion compare with $226 billion in 2010.