December 19, 2012

LONDON, Dec 19 The insurance industry looks set to absorb about $65 billion in catastrophe claims this year, down from a near-record $120 billion in 2011, reinsurer Swiss Re said.

Weather-related disasters in the United States accounted for the bulk of the total, Swiss Re said on Wednesday, with superstorm Sandy generating claims of up to $25 billion, and drought damage to crops inflicting a further $11 billion loss.

The 2012 claims bill is above the average for the past 10 years but barely more than half the total for 2011, the second-costliest catastrophe year on record because of Japan's Tohoku earthquake and heavy flooding in Thailand.

The worst year for catastrophe claims was 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, contributing to a total insured loss of $123 billion, according to Swiss Re figures.

Analysts have said this year's disaster claims fall within the range of losses the insurance industry prepares for.

(Reporting by Myles Neligan; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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