Hurricanes in the Caribbean and United States and typhoons in Japan helped to make 2004 a record year for insured losses

Munich Re estimates the total insured catastrophe losses for the year at $44 billion with economic losses at over $145 billion. Swiss Re puts the insured losses at $49 billion, including $3 billion in man-made losses, more than half of which was due to large fires and explosions. Financial losses were estimated at $123 billion.

The worst disaster in terms of loss of life, the Indian Ocean tsunami in December which killed nearly 300,000 people resulted in insured losses of around $5 billion with economic losses of about $14 billion.

US property-casualty insurers paid a record $27.3 billion for insured property losses to homeowners and businesses from 22 catastrophic events in 2004, surpassing even losses from 2001 which included the September 11 attack, according to estimates by ISO's Property Claim Services (PCS) unit. The average cost of an event resulting in more than $25 million in claims was $1.26 billion - twice that for other years in the past decade.

Over 80% of the insured losses were from the five hurricanes that made landfall in the United States along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Florida suffered the highest insured losses at $18.8 billion, all from the four third-quarter hurricanes - Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Alabama followed at $1.8 billion, Colorado and Pennsylvania each at $715 million, and Georgia at $660 million.

- The US government Minerals Management Service (MMS) reported that Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 destroyed seven oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and caused significant damage to 24 others, 16 of which remained off production in February 2005 when oil prices were at a record high. The storm also damaged numerous pipelines. The shut-in oil production in February was equivalent to 7.42% of daily production of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, or approximately 1.7 million barrels of oil per day, according to the MMS.

- The year also saw a number of man-made catastrophes. Globally, among the most serious were the explosion at the Skikda petrochemical plant in Algeria in January, the roof collapse at an indoor swimming pool in Moscow in February, the Madrid train bomb in March, the partial collapse of a terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and a fireworks factory explosion in Kolding, Denmark, in November.

An accident on a motorway bridge near Cologne in Germany in August when a car was involved in a collision with a fully loaded road tanker, which plunged off the bridge, killing the driver and badly damaging the bridge, is responsible for losses estimated at 33 million euros.