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Insured disaster losses rose in 2016, Swiss Re says

Total economic losses from disaster events in 2016 amount to at least $158 billion, compared to $94 billion a year earlier, Swiss Re Ltd. said Dec. 15.

The reinsurer's preliminary sigma estimates also indicate that insured losses have risen in 2016, to approximately $49 billion from $37 billion a year earlier. The gap between total and insured losses indicates that many of the disaster events took place in areas where insurance coverage was low, Swiss Re noted.

Swiss Re Chief Economist Kurt Karl said a series of major earthquakes across the world in 2016, including the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that hit central Italy in August, highlight the gap in insurance coverage for earthquake risk.

"Italy is the eighth-largest economy in the world, yet only 1% of homes in Italy are insured against earthquake risk," he said.

Earthquakes that took place in Japan in April produced the year's highest insured catastrophe loss at $5 billion, Swiss Re said. Economic losses from the temblors were between $20 billion and $40 billion.

Hurricane Matthew caused insured losses in excess of $4 billion and economic losses of $8.0 billion, while a U.S. hailstorm in April produced $3.0 billion of insured losses and $3.5 billion of economic losses. Storms and floods in Europe in May and June produced insured losses of $2.9 billion and economic losses of $3.9 billion, while the Fort McMurray wildfires in Alberta, Canada, in May were responsible for $2.8 billion of insured losses and $3.9 billion of economic losses.