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Insurer: 2016 saw highest natural disaster losses in 4 years

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/01/2017
In this Thursday Dec. 29, 2016 photo, a man pets a dog along a flooded street caused by rains from Typhoon Nock-Ten in Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines. The powerful typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines on Christmas Day, spoiling the biggest holiday in Asia's largest Catholic nation, where a governor offered roast pig to entice villagers to abandon family celebrations for emergency shelters. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File) © The Associated Press In this Thursday Dec. 29, 2016 photo, a man pets a dog along a flooded street caused by rains from Typhoon Nock-Ten in Quezon city, north of Manila, Philippines. The powerful typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines on Christmas Day, spoiling the biggest holiday in Asia's largest Catholic nation, where a governor offered roast pig to entice villagers to abandon family celebrations for emergency shelters. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File)

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 totaled $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 totaling $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 totaled $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 percent of overall losses, compared with an average of 21 percent 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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This story has been corrected to show that Hurricane Matthew was in late September and early October.

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