2016: Highest natural disaster losses in four years

Last year saw the highest costs from natural disasters since 2012

BERLIN — Last year saw the highest costs from natural disasters since 2012, with a pair of earthquakes in Japan in April accounting for the heaviest losses, a leading insurer said Wednesday.

Losses from natural disasters worldwide totalled $175 billion last year, some $50 billion of which was covered by insurance, Munich Re said in an annual survey .

The earthquakes on Japan’s southern Kyushu island caused $31 billion worth of damage, with $6 billion of the costs covered by insurance.

Floods in China in June and July caused $20 billion in costs, only $300 million of which was insured.

The third-costliest disaster was Hurricane Matthew, which hit the Caribbean and the eastern United States in late September and early October. It incurred losses totalling $10.2 billion, of which $3.8 billion was covered by insurance.

In 2015, when the El Nino weather phenomenon reduced hurricane activity in the North Atlantic, global natural disaster losses totalled $103 billion, $32 billion of that sum insured. However, the number of people killed dropped to 8,700 last year from 25,400 the previous year.

Last year’s losses were “in the mid-range” after three years of relatively low costs, Munich Re board member Torsten Jeworrek said in a statement.

He stressed that “losses in a single year are obviously random and cannot be seen as a trend.”

The company said there was an “exceptional” number of floods, which accounted for 34 per cent of overall losses, compared with an average of 21 per cent over the past decade.

Those included $6 billion in losses, about half of them insured, resulting from storms and flooding in Europe — particularly in Germany and the Paris region — in May and June.

Jeworrek said that “the high percentage of uninsured losses, especially in emerging markets and developing countries, remains a concern.”

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