20110609 japan earthquake tsunami miyagi 54
Heavy machinery removes rubble from the tsunami-devastated town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture on May 9, 2011. - 

Steve Chiotakis: This morning the centuries-old British insurance market, Lloyd's of London, is reporting a loss of more than a billion dollars for the first six months of the year. And all due to a record number of claims from natural disasters.

From London, here's reporter Christopher Werth.

Christopher Werth: There's been no shortage of natural disasters this year. There's of course, the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan back in March. But also some lesser-known but still catastrophic disasters, like earthquakes in New Zealand and floods in Australia.

Thomas Hess of the insurer Swiss Re says the total cost to the insurance industry for the first half of 2011 comes to a whopping $70 billion dollars.

Thomas Hess: With $70 billion, 2011 is already the year with the second largest losses in history. So this year is quite a catastrophic year.

And that doesn't even include the costs of Tropical Storm Irene that battered the Eastern coast of the United States last month. That, along with three more months of possible future disasters, could make 2011 the worst year for disaster insurance.

At $120 billion dollars, 2005 is the most expensive year on record due to Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita.

Hess says disasters can have a negative impact on both local and global economies. But he says that's typically followed by short-term economic growth as communities rebuild.

In London, I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.