Natural Catastrophes Drive Global Insured Losses to $31B in H1: Swiss Re’s Sigma

August 18, 2016

Global insured losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters during the first half of 2016 reached US$31 billion, or 44 percent of total economic losses of US$71 billion, according to a report issued by Swiss Re’s sigma.

The economic loss total (non-insured losses), primarily from natural disaster events, rose by 38 percent over H1 2015, while insured losses from both natural and man-made catastrophes rose by 51 percent.

Breaking down the insured loss total, sigma said global natural catastrophes cost global insurers US$28 billion, a 75 percent increase from US$16 billion in H1 2015. “This is slightly above the annual average first-half loss of the previous 10 years,” the report noted.

On the other hand, man-made catastrophes came to US$3 billion during the half, a 34 percent decrease from the $5 billion reported in H1 2015.

Highest Insured Losses

Earthquakes in Japan, thunderstorms in the US and Europe, and wildfires in Canada caused the largest insured losses, the report confirmed.

Three separate weather events in the U.S., brought the highest claims of more than US$7 billion. “The most intense of these was a major convective storm in Texas in April 2016, resulting in insured losses of US$3.1 billion, as large hailstones caused widespread property damage.”

Severe European weather events in late May and early June (storms Elvira and Friederike) caused thunderstorms, flash floods and river flooding, with France and Germany taking the biggest toll, the report went on to say. Insured losses from these storms and floods cost US$2.8 billion, sigma said.

A series of earthquakes – including a 7.0-magnitude quake on April 16 – struck the Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, causing insured losses of US$5.6 billion and killed 64 people.

“On the same day on the other side of the world, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador,” killing 668 people, the report said, noting that insured losses were just US$400 million (as a result of the country’s low insurance penetration.)

The report said that wildfires in the heart of Canada’s oil sands production region cost the insurance industry US$2.5 billion, making this one of the costliest wildfire events in insurance industry history. Dry conditions and strong winds led to a rapid spread of the wildfires in Alberta, Canada, and destroyed many homes in the town of Fort McMurray.

Other findings from the sigma report include:

  • Of the total economic losses reported in H1, natural catastrophes made up US$68 billion (compared with US$46 billion in H1 2015), while the remaining US$3 billion came from man-made disasters
  • Approximately 6,000 people lost their lives lost in disaster events in H1 2016, compared to 12,000 in the same period the previous year.

Source: Swiss Re

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