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Tornadoes leave US insurers with big bill for January

US insurers will pay out more than $US1 billion ($1.31 billion) after January brought severe weather and the largest number of tornadoes in 17 years, Impact Forecasting says.

At least 130 tornadoes struck last month, with three in the southeast recording wind speeds of 218-266kmh, according to the Aon Benfield subsidiary’s January catastrophe report.

Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida were hardest hit, with thousands of homes, businesses and structures destroyed.

Emergencies were declared in Georgia and Mississippi, and total combined losses from these two events are expect to exceed $US1 billion ($1.31 billion), with insured losses in the hundreds of millions.

Flash flooding, mudslides and debris caused significant damage in California, with economic losses expected to approach $US700 million ($917.5 million) and insured losses at about $US300 million ($393.13 million).

Elsewhere, Chile experienced its worst wildfire in modern history, killing at least 11 people and damaging about 2500 structures and vehicles, and 452,000 hectares. Preliminary estimates put the cost at 570 billion pesos ($1.15 billion).

Thai floods killed at least 96 people and inundated about 585,000 homes and structures. The rubber industry, one of the world’s biggest, was heavily affected. Economic losses were estimated at more than 30 billion baht ($1.12 billion).

Malaysia also experienced severe flooding, with 25,000 people evacuated and damage estimated at 585 million ringgit ($172.85 billion).

Peru, South Africa, China, the Philippines and French Polynesia experienced major flooding, and earthquakes hit central Italy on January 18, killing at least 30 people.

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