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USA had world's 3 costliest natural disasters in 2018, and Camp Fire was the worst

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/8/2019 Doyle Rice
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The USA led the world in catastrophes last year.

Racking up an overall damage cost of $16.5 billion, the devastating and deadly Camp Fire that ravaged California in November was the world's costliest natural disaster in 2018. The data come from a report issued Tuesday by Munich Re, a reinsurance firm.

In second and third place last year were Hurricanes Michael ($16 billion) and Florence ($14 billion). Florence dumped heavy rain across the Carolinas in September, and Michael tore into the Florida Panhandle in October.

Michael, which had a wind speed of 155 mph at landfall, was the fourth-strongest hurricane on record to hit the USA. It reduced the small town of Mexico Beach, Florida, to rubble. 

a river filled with lots of traffic: In this Monday, Nov. 12, 2018 file photo, homes leveled by the Camp Fire line a development on Edgewood Lane in Paradise, Calif. Rain in the forecast starting Wednesday, Nov. 21, could aid crews fighting Northern California's deadly wildfire while raising the risk of debris flows and complicating efforts to recover remains. © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. In this Monday, Nov. 12, 2018 file photo, homes leveled by the Camp Fire line a development on Edgewood Lane in Paradise, Calif. Rain in the forecast starting Wednesday, Nov. 21, could aid crews fighting Northern California's deadly wildfire while raising the risk of debris flows and complicating efforts to recover remains.

The disastrous Camp Fire, California's deadliest on record with 86 fatalities, stood out for its ferocity: "Such massive wildfires appear to be occurring more frequently as a result of climate change," said Munich Re's Torsten Jeworrek. "Action is urgently needed on building codes and land use to help prevent losses."

Thousands of homes and cars were gutted by fire; the town of Paradise was almost entirely destroyed.

Ernst Rauch, Munich Re's head of climate and geosciences, said, "Our data shows that the losses from wildfires in California have risen dramatically in recent years. At the same time, we have experienced a significant increase in hot, dry summers, which has been a major factor in the formation of wildfires. Many scientists see a link between these developments and advancing climate change."

As for the hurricanes, since most of the property destroyed by Michael was caused by wind, a large part of the damage was insured. Since the destruction from Florence was due to rain and floods, a large portion of the damage was not insured. Flooding is not normally covered under standard homeowners’ insurance policies in the USA.

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

The total cost for all the natural catastrophes globally in 2018 was $160 billion. Though far below the extreme total of $350 billion in 2017, it's above the long-term average of $140 billion.

Of that $160 billion, about half was insured, Munich Re reported.

The deadliest catastrophe was an earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia on Sept. 28, killing more than 2,100 people.

After the U.S., the countries that experienced the most economic damage in 2018 were Japan and China. 

About 10,400 people lost their lives in 2018 because of natural disasters, Munich Re said. This was well below the yearly average of 53,000 deaths over the past 30 years.

The high death toll in Indonesia continues a long-term pattern for the region: Since 1980, 71 percent of all deaths from natural catastrophes have been in Asia.

a screenshot of a cell phone © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USA had world's 3 costliest natural disasters in 2018, and Camp Fire was the worst

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