Natural Disasters

The year in figures

The year in figures – Global

After three relatively moderate years, the overall loss amount in 2016 climbed to US$ 175bn, a level last seen in 2012. Once overall losses since 1980 are adjusted for inflation, 2016 comes in as one of the ten costliest years on record. North America and Asia had to bear particularly high claims burdens, making up 84% of the overall loss amount. The worldwide loss amount borne by insurers came to US$ 50bn, making 2016 the fifth-costliest year for the industry since 1980. The average insured loss for the last ten years is approximately US$ 45bn, and US$ 34bn for the last 30 years. As with overall losses, North America and Asia also accounted for the bulk of insured losses. The trend of an increasing number of registered events worldwide has continued, which is primarily the result of improved reporting options. Munich Re categorised 750 events as relevant natural catastrophes and included them in the event statistics. This is significantly more than the average for both the last ten years (590) and the last 30 years (470). At approximately 9,200, the number of fatalities was much lower than the previous year’s figure of 25,400, and also below the 10-year average of 60,600. So, with the exception of 2014, when there were 8,050 fatalities, 2016 saw the fewest fatalities in more than 30 years.

Number of events

Munich Re’s NatCatSERVICE recorded around 1,900 loss events in 2016. Following last year’s change to the threshold for inclusion in our statistics, 750 of these were classified as relevant, 130 (17%) of which were very severe and severe disasters. The remaining 83% were moderate and minor loss events. Distribution according to “peril groups” was markedly different in 2016, with significant changes in the figures for windstorms and floods compared with previous years. For example, 33% of all events recorded were meteorological events, some way below the long-term average of 40% for the period 1980 to 2015. By contrast, the number of hydrological events increased from 39% to 50%; in other words river flooding, flash floods and mass movement accounted for half of all relevant events worldwide in the past year. 7% of all events were geophysical. This matches the value of the previous year and deviates only slightly from the long-term average. 10% were climatological events. This also corresponds to the level of the last few years.

© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
The year in figures – events and fatalities


Almost 60% of the fatalities in natural catastrophes were in Asia. The countries mainly affected were China, India and Pakistan, where protracted rainfall led to extensive flooding that ultimately claimed the lives of almost 2,400 people. The two deadliest events of the last year were an earthquake in Ecuador in which 673 people died, and Hurricane Matthew, which caused tremendous damage in the Caribbean and the USA in late September/early October. Around 600 people were killed, most of them on Haiti. In Italy, 299 people died in a severe earthquake in August.


Of the US$ 175bn in overall losses, 27% came from geophysical events, including the costliest natural disaster of the year – the earthquake in Japan in mid-April, which struck close to the city of Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu. It resulted in an overall loss of US$ 31bn, of which the insurance industry bore US$ 6bn. Further claims burdens in the billions resulted from earthquakes in Italy and New Zealand. 31% of overall losses were caused by meteorological and 32% by hydrological events. Major contributors were floods in the USA, Europe, and in China. Along with the claims burden from Hurricane Matthew and the earthquake in Japan, they represent the five costliest events in 2016. 10% of losses are attributed to climatological events. Forest fires in Canada, months of drought in China and India, and winter losses in eastern Asia all left their mark. Overall, last year saw 32 events with losses of at least US$ 1bn. These include severe weather with hailstorms and flash floods in the USA and Europe, as well as typhoons in China, Taiwan and the Philippines. They were responsible for approximately 70% of the total loss amount.

© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
The year in figures – overall and insued losses

If insured losses are subtracted from overall losses, the insurance gap comes to US$ 125bn. Storms were responsible for half of all insured losses, with floods accounting for 18% and earthquakes for 20%, and droughts and other climatological events for 12%. 14 separate events each cost insurers US$ 1bn or more. They included the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, as well as four hailstorms in the USA. 62% of insured losses occurred in the USA, with only 21% in Asia, and 11% in Europe.

© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
Number of loss events 1980-2016
© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
Overall losses and insured losses 1980-2016 (in USD bn)
© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
Loss events worldwide 1980-2016

The year in figures – Regional North America

The continent of North America, including Central America and the Caribbean, accounted for 22% of all loss events and 12% of all fatalities. This is in line with the long-term average. In terms of loss amount, however, there were slight deviations from the average. For example, 33% of overall losses and 60% of insured losses were recorded in North America, representing declines of 8% and 4% respectively. Overall losses came to US$ 52bn, of which US$ 29bn was insured. 13 events either reached or exceeded the billion-dollar threshold. The costliest disaster on the North American continent was Hurricane Matthew, which tore a swathe of destruction across the Caribbean and all the way up to South Carolina. Haiti was the worst affected, with almost 550 lives lost in this one event. The total number of fatalities exceeded 601, making the hurricane the world’s seconddeadliest event in 2016. In August, torrential rainfall caused flooding and flash floods in Louisiana and Mississippi. Overall losses amounted to US$ 10bn, of which around a quarter was insured. In the Canadian province of Alberta, large-scale forest fires raged from May to July, leaving in their wake damage amounting to US$ 4bn, of which US$ 2.9bn was insured. It ranks as the worst natural catastrophe in Canadian history.

South America

9% of global loss events were recorded in South America. They included the deadliest event of the year – an earthquake in Ecuador with 673 fatalities. The quake struck on 16 April, causing overall losses of US$ 2bn, of which US$ 560m was insured. The continent, and Argentina in particular, was also hit by severe floods. Overall losses came to more than US$ 1bn, with only a small portion insured. Bolivia suffered from a serious shortage of rainfall in 2016, resulting in drought losses for its agriculture of almost US$ 500m dollars.


Europe accounted for 10% of events, 5% of fatalities, 10% of overall losses, and 11% of insured losses worldwide. Particularly in terms of losses, 2016 therefore deviates from the longterm comparison since 1980. The averages are 3% for overall losses, and around 5% for insured losses. The overall loss from five catastrophes exceeded US$ 1bn in each case. The costliest events were the two earthquakes in Italy at US$ 5bn and US$ 6.5bn respectively. Europe was also gripped by severe storms for several weeks, which were assisted by a stationary weather pattern that remained over the continent for a protracted period. The outcome was extensive floods in France and severe flash floods in Germany. The accumulated losses came to US$ 6bn, of which half was insured. In June, a violent hailstorm passed over Germany and the Netherlands. It caused an overall loss of US$ 1.9bn. Here too, almost 50% of the loss was insured.

© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
Loss events 2016


A total of 90 relevant loss events were recorded for the continent of Africa. This corresponds to roughly 12% of global events. Weatherrelated disasters were the main loss events, with just four small earthquakes recorded that caused minor damage. Ethiopia was hit by extensive floods in April and May, while Sudan was also affected from June to September. In total, loss events in Africa in 2016 claimed the lives of over 1,000 people. This corresponds to 11% of all fatalities from natural catastrophes worldwide. 2016 was an extremely dry year in southern Africa, with drought losses in the millions. International aid was needed to provide sufficient food for the population.

© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
Loss events 2016


Asia suffered greatly from natural disasters in 2016 – 61% of all fatalities worldwide (some 5,000 people in total) and 51% of all losses. The year’s two costliest events – the earthquake in Japan with losses of US$ 31bn and the floods in China with losses of US$ 20bn – were among the 11 events in Asia that exceeded the US$ 1bn mark. Overall losses from a total of 320 events came to US$ 87bn, with insured losses at only US$ 10bn, accounting for 20% of all insured losses worldwide. This means that losses in Asia totalling US$ 77bn were uninsured.


The region comprising Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific island states accounted for just 5% of loss events worldwide. This is in line with the long-term average. Around 90 people lost their lives. The most serious event occurred in New Zealand on 13 November, when an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck the province of Canterbury, with losses of US$ 3.9bn. Some US$ 2.1bn of this was insured. The region was also hit by tropical cyclones. For example, Cyclone Winston caused losses of around US$ 600m and 44 fatalities in Fiji. A winter storm struck the east coast of Australia. The accompanying storm surge and flash floods resulted in losses totalling US$ 500m, US$ 310m of which were insured.

© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
Loss events 2016
© Source: Munich Re NatCatSERVICE
Loss events 2016 compared to 1980-2015
Further Information
Topics Geo – Naturkatastrophen 2016
PDF, 15.6 MB
Munich Re Experts
Petra Löw
Head of NatCatSERVICE
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