Natural catastrophe losses at their highest for four years

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4 January 2017 | Reinsurance

Press release

Natural catastrophe losses at their highest for four years

A number of devastating earthquakes and powerful storms made 2016 the costliest twelve months for natural catastrophe losses in the last four years. Losses totalled US$ 175bn, a good two-thirds more than in the previous year, and very nearly as high as the figure for 2012 (US$ 180bn). The share of uninsured losses – the so-called protection or insurance gap – remained substantial at around 70%. Almost 30% of the losses, some US$ 50bn, were insured.

Infographic on natural catastrophes in 2016

Click on the picture to start the animation.

“After three years of relatively low nat cat losses, the figures for 2016 are back in the mid-range, where they are expected to be. Losses in a single year are obviously random and cannot be seen as a trend”, said member of the Board of Management Torsten Jeworrek. “The high percentage of uninsured losses, especially in emerging markets and developing countries, remains a concern. Greater insurance density is important, as it helps to alleviate the financial consequences of a catastrophe for more people. With its risk knowledge, the insurance industry would in fact be able to bear a much greater portion of such unpredictable risks.”

Key nat cat figures of 2016:

  • Both overall losses and insured losses were above the inflation-adjusted average for the past ten years (US$ 154bn and 45.1bn respectively).
  • Taking very small events out of the equation, 750 relevant loss events such as earthquakes, storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves were recorded in the Munich Re NatCatSERVICE database. That is significantly above the ten-year average of 590.
  • Some 8,700 lives were sadly lost as a result of these natural catastrophes, far fewer at least than in 2015 (25,400), yet within the ten-year average (60,600). The past year was thus the year with the fewest fatalities (after 2014, with 8,050 fatalities) in 30 years (1986: 8,600).
  • The high number of flood events, including river flooding and flash floods, was exceptional and accounted for 34% of overall losses, compared with an average of 21% over the past ten years.

The five costliest natural catastrophes of the year

Munich Re

Earthquake in Japan most expensive natural catastrophe of 2016
The costliest natural catastrophes of the year occurred in Asia. There were two earthquakes on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu close to the city of Kumamoto in April (overall losses US$ 31bn; proportion of insured losses just under 20%), and devastating floods in China in June and July (overall losses US$ 20bn; only some 2% of which were insured).

North America was hit by more loss occurrences in 2016 than in any other year since 1980, with 160 events recorded. The year’s most serious event here was Hurricane Matthew. Its greatest impact was in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, which was still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake. Matthew killed around 550 people in Haiti, and also caused serious damage on the east coast of the USA. Overall losses totalled US$ 10.2bn, with over a third of this figure insured.

Series of storms in Europe, wildfires in Canada
North America was also impacted by other extreme weather hazards, including wildfires in the Canadian town of Fort McMurray in May, and major floods in the southern US states in summer. In Canada, the mild winter with less snow than usual, and the spring heatwaves and droughts which followed, were the principal causes of the devastating wildfires that hit the oil-sand-producing region of Alberta, generating overall losses of US$ 4bn. More than two-thirds of this figure was insured. In August, floods in Louisiana and other US states following persistent rain triggered losses totalling US$ 10bn, around a quarter of which was insured.

There was a series of storms in Europe in late May and early June. Torrential rain triggered numerous flash floods, particularly in Germany, and there was major flooding on the River Seine in and around Paris. Overall losses totalled some US$ 6bn (approximately €5.4bn), around half of which was insured.

“A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change. Of course, individual events themselves can never be attributed directly to climate change. But there are now many indications that certain events – such as persistent weather systems or storms bringing torrential rain and hail – are more likely to occur in certain regions as a result of climate change”, explained Peter Höppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit.


Note for the editorial staff:
For further questions please contact

Media Relations Munich
Stefan Straub
Tel.: +49 (89) 3891-9896

Media Relations Asia Pacific
Nikola Kemper
Tel.: +852 2536 6936
Lillian Ng
Tel.: +852 2536 6981

Media Relations North America
Beate Monastiridis-Dörr
Tel.: +1 (609) 235-8699
Sharon Cooper
Tel.: +1 (609) 243-8821


Munich Re stands for exceptional solution-based expertise, consistent risk management, financial stability and client proximity. This is how Munich Re creates value for clients, shareholders and staff. In the financial year 2015, the Group – which combines primary insurance and reinsurance under one roof – achieved a profit of €3.1bn on premium income of over €50bn. It operates in all lines of insurance, with over 43,000 employees throughout the world. With premium income of around €28bn from reinsurance alone, it is one of the world’s leading reinsurers. Especially when clients require solutions for complex risks, Munich Re is a much sought-after risk carrier. Its primary insurance operations are concentrated mainly in the ERGO Insurance Group, one of the leading insurance groups in Germany and Europe. ERGO is represented in over 30 countries worldwide and offers a comprehensive range of insurances, provision products and services. In 2015, ERGO posted premium income of €17.9bn. In international healthcare business, Munich Re pools its insurance and reinsurance operations, as well as related services, under the Munich Health brand. Munich Re’s global investments (excluding insurance-related investments) amounting to €215bn are managed by MEAG, which also makes its competence available to private and institutional investors outside the Group.


Disclaimer
This press release contains forward-looking statements that are based on current assumptions and forecasts of the management of Munich Re. Known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could lead to material differences between the forward-looking statements given here and the actual development, in particular the results, financial situation and performance of our Company. The Company assumes no liability to update these forward-looking statements or to conform them to future events or developments.


Munich, 4 January 2017


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Natural catastrophes 2016 Peter Höppe, Head of Geo Risk Research
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