Disasters – Costliest

Waves From Typhoon Haiyan –
Nov 2013[4]
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Disasters are ranked based on damage, loss of lives, or the amount of money that it cost to rebuild. Therefore, ranking the worst natural disasters of all times is subjective and depends on the criteria used.

Japan is still recovering from the earthquake and tsunami that struck its north-east coast on March 11th, 2011 and estimates released by the World Bank put the economic damage resulting from the disaster at as much as $235 billion. That figure would make this disaster the costliest since comparable records began in 1965.[1]

In contrast, the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, even though it caused some 250,000 deaths, the economic losses amounted to only $14 billion, partly because of low property and land values in the affected areas.[2]

Below is a table of the Ten Costliest Disasters since 1980, based on overall loss as ranked by Munich Re Group. Munich Re is a reinsurance company based in Munich, Germany. It is one of the world’s leading reinsurers.[3]

Table. Ten Costliest Disasters by Overall Losses - U.S. $ (1980-2013)


Disaster Event(s)

Affected Area

Loss (Billions)


2011 Nov 3Earthquake, tsunamiJapan: Honshu, Aomori, Tohoku; Miyagi, Sendai; Fukushima, Mito; Ibaraki; Tochigi, Utsunomiya $235 15,840
2005 Aug 25-30Hurricane Katrina, storm surgeUSA: LA, New Orleans, Slidell; MS, Biloxi, Pascagoula, Waveland, Gulfport$1251,322
1995 Jan 17EarthquakeJapan: Hyogo, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto$1006,430
2008 Dec 5EarthquakeChina: Sichuan, Mianyang, Beichuan, Wenchuan, Shifang, Chengdu, Guangyuan, Ngawa, Ya'an$8584,000
2012 Oct 24-31Hurricane Sandy, storm surgeBahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica,Puerto Rico, USA, Canada $65210
1994 Jan 17EarthquakeUSA: CA, Northridge, Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Ventura, Orange $4461
2011 Jan 8-15FloodsThailand: Phichit, Nakhon Sawan, Phra Nakhon Si Ayuttaya, Pathumthani, Nonthaburi, Bangkok$43813
2008 Sept 1-14Hurricane IkeCuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas, USA $38170
1998 May-SeptFloodsChina: Jangtsekiang, Songhua Jiang $30.704,159
2010 Feb 27Earthquake, tsunamiChile: Bio Bio, Concepcion, Talcahuano, Coronel, Dichato, Chillan; Del Maule, Talca, Curico$30520
2013 MayFloods South and east German states, western regions of the Czech Republic (Bohemia), and Austria. In addition, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belarus, Poland, Hungary and Serbia (Vojvodina) been affected to a lesser extent.$2224



  1. World Bank: World Bank East Asia and Pacific Economic Update 2011, Vol 1: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEAPHALFYEARLYUPDATE/Resources/550192-1300567391916/EAP_Update_March2011_japan.pdf
  2. World Bank: World Bank Response to the Tsunami Disaster, February 2, 2005: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/COUNTRIES/Resources/tsunamireport-020205.doc
  3. Munich Reinsurance Company. Münchener Rückversicherungs-Gesellschaft, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE: http://www.munichre.com/en/reinsurance/business/non-life/georisks/natcatservice/significant_natural_catastrophes.aspx
  4. Image Source: http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2013/11/typhoon-haiyan/ [Accessed Dec 12, 2013]