01/04/2012 05:38 EST | Updated 03/05/2012 05:12 EST

Reinsurer says earthquakes in Japan, New Zealand make 2011 industry's costliest yet

BERLIN - A leading reinsurer says devastating earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand made 2011 the insurance industry's costliest yet in natural disaster losses.

Munich Re said in an annual report Wednesday that insured losses last year totalled $105 billion — exceeding the previous record of $101 billion set in 2005, when losses were swollen by claims from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

The company said the total economic cost last year from natural disasters — including uninsured losses — totalled about $380 billion. That was far above the 2005 record of $220 billion.

Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March caused insured losses of up to $40 billion. The second most costly disaster for insurers, at $13 billion, was the February quake that hit the New Zealand city of Christchurch.