By Jonathan Gould
FRANKFURT, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The human and economic cost of natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes fell sharply worldwide last year, helped by improved early warning systems, the world's largest reinsurer Munich Re said on Wednesday.
The number of people killed fell to 7,700 in 2014 from 21,000 the year before, while the economic cost of natural catastrophes dropped to $110 billion from $140 billion, Munich Re said in its annual review of disasters.
Insurance covered $31 billion of last year's losses or 28 percent of the total, Munich Re's data also showed.
The figures back the industry's view that much of the world remains under-insured and that insurance could play a greater role in supporting economic recovery after a disaster, particularly in emerging markets.
"Lower losses in 2014 should not give us a false sense of security, because the risk situation overall has not changed," Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said in a statement.
"There is no reason to expect a similarly moderate course in 2015," Jeworrek said, adding it was impossible to predict disaster outcomes in any individual year.
Heavy snow in Japan and the United States early in the year, plus storms in Europe and the United States in the middle of the year and a hurricane in Mexico in September caused billions of dollars in insured and economic damage last year.
In economic terms, the costliest catastrophe was Cyclone Hudhud in India, which caused $7 billion in losses, the company said.
Munich Re's peer Swiss Re last month estimated natural and man-made disasters caused $113 billion in economic damage in 2014, about a third of which was covered by insurance.
(Editing by Thomas Atkins and David Holmes)
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