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Lloyd's Of London In Global Insurance Warning

(c) Sky News 2012

The world's biggest insurance market has warned that more than a dozen emerging economies are at risk of major rebuilding costs due to minimal insurance cover for natural disasters.

Lloyd's of London said there is a global insurance deficit of $168m (£104m) which now affects at least 17 countries.

Its (Euronext: ALITS.NX - news) warning comes after a string of natural disasters caused £3.6trn damage in 2011.

Last year major incidents included the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, major floods in Thailand, a New Zealand earthquake and a Filipino typhoon.

A devastating series of tornadoes in the United States also caused $35bn (£22bn) of damage.

The string of events prompted a £516m loss for 324-year-old Lloyd's. It was its first loss since the terror attacks of 2001.

The industry paid out $107bn (£66bn) in claims, making it the most expensive year ever for insurers.

This year's superstorm Sandy in the US has been estimated to cost up to $50bn (£31bn), and claims from the grounding of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off Italy are still pending.

Lloyd's research, carried out by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), said the cost of disasters had increased by £540bn in real terms.

It said booming countries, with fast-growing affluent middle-classes, include China, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

CEBR chief executive Douglas McWilliams said: "The 'insurance gap' has a huge and lasting impact on the ability of businesses, governments and people to recover from the earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and forest fires that affect us all every year.

"This means lost orders, lost jobs and wasted taxpayer money as a failure to prepare ahead of such events creates costs that are more severe and unmanageable."

The CEBR said China was top of the list for shortfalls of insurance, with just 1.4% of losses between 2004 and 2011 being covered.

According to The Guardian, damage from the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 totalled $125bn (£78bn) but only 0.3% was covered by insurance.

But insurers may need to reassess their own expectations of insurance cover based on economic vitality and cultural norms in developing nations.