The world's second-largest reinsurer has said that natural catastrophes and man-made disasters cost the insurance industry $77 billion in 2012, the third costliest year on record.

Swiss Re said the more than 300 catastrophes and disasters caused the loss of 14,000 lives.

It said this was mostly due to "large scale weather events" in the US such as Hurricane Sandy that accounted for $35 billion of insured losses - nearly half the total worldwide.

But the Zurich-based firm noted that the losses were well down from 2011, when record earthquakes and flooding in Asia Pacific region caused the highest ever recorded losses of more than $126 billion.

Kurt Karl, Swiss Re's chief economist, said "large parts of the globe that are prone to weather extremes" were uninsured.