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Costs of natural disasters soared in 2016

January 4, 2017

Munich Re put global costs at $175 billion and called the level "mid-range." The jump comes after three years of comparatively modest damage.

Haiti Hurrikan Matthew
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/D. Nalio Chery

Last year was a costly year for natural disaster damage around the world, according to Munich Re, one of the world's leading reinsurance companies.

The German-based company put global losses at $175 billion (168 billion euros) in 2016 - making it the costliest year since 2012, when the company reported $180 billion worth of losses worldwide. The company's global survey reports that only $50 billion worth of damage was covered by insurance last year.

It listed a pair of earthquakes that rocked southern Japan as the most expensive disasters - registering $31 billion worth of damage, of which only $6 billion was covered by insurance.

Summer floods in China caused $20 billion worth of damage, of which just 1.5 percent was insured - that is, $300 million.

Hurricane Matthew, which tore through the Caribbean and swiped the southeastern United States in August caused damage totaling $10.2 billion, of which only $3.8 billion was covered by insurance.

While 2016 saw a 66 percent increase in the financial impact of natural disasters around the world the number of casualties was greatly reduced. There were 8,700 deaths in 2016, compared to 25,400 in 2015. The company describes the property damage for 2016 as "mid-range," and a considerable increase after three years of relatively low-level costs.

While many individuals, companies and government may well lament not having had insurance this past year, Munich Re has a manifest financial interest in having more people and firms buy insurance.

bik/kms (AP, AFP)