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Insurance Costs from Rita, Wilma Could Exceed $20 Billion

Swiss Reinsurance Company, the world's second-biggest reinsurer, says the global insurance industry could face some $20 billion in claims from Hurricanes Rita and Wilma.

The Zurich-based company estimates the cost from Rita will be around $10 billion, while damage claims from Wilma could range from $6 billion to $12 billion.

Insurance companies were already reeling from Hurricane Katrina, which analysts say will cost the industry at least $40 billion.

Swiss Reinsurance announced Wednesday that its own earnings will be hurt by the recent string of storms to hit the U.S. Gulf coast.

The company says it expects claims of $750 million from Rita and Wilma, on top of an estimated $1.3 billion in claims from Katrina.

Reinsurers sell back-up insurance to other insurance companies, spreading risk so losses from major natural disasters can be covered.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Bloomberg.