Preliminary sigma estimates for first-half 2016: natural catastrophes drive global insured losses to USD 31 billion

18 August 2016, Zurich

  • Total economic losses from disaster events in H1 2016 rise by 38% to USD 71 billion, primarily due to natural catastrophe
  • Insured losses from both natural and man-made catastrophes rise by 51% to USD 31 billion in H1 2016
  • Earthquakes in Japan, thunderstorms in the US and Europe, and wildfires in Canada cause largest insured losses
  • As many as 6 000 lives lost in disaster events in H1 2016, compared to 12 000 in the same period of the previous year

Preliminary sigma estimates show total economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters reached USD 71 billion in the first half of 2016. The global insurance industry covered a total of USD 31 billion, or 44%, of the total losses. Thunderstorms in the US and Europe were the costliest events for the insurance sector in the first half. Around 6 000 people lost their lives in natural catastrophes and man-made events in the first six months of the year, compared to12 000 in the first half of 2015.

Of the total economic losses in the first half of the year, natural catastrophes made up USD 68 billion (compared with USD 46 billion in H1 2015), while the remaining USD 3 billion came from man-made disasters. Total global insured losses from natural catastrophes rose to USD 28 billion, driven by large losses from different perils, from thunderstorms to wildfires, across all regions. This is slightly above the annual average first-half loss of the previous 10 years. Insured losses from man-made disasters fell to USD 3 billion from USD 5 billion in the first half of 2015.

Thunderstorms in the US generate highest insured losses
Three separate severe weather events in the US, including large hail, caused combined insured losses of over USD 7 billion. The most intense of these was a major convective storm in Texas in April 2016, resulting in insured losses of USD 3.1 billion, as large hailstones caused widespread property damage.

Europe was also subject to severe weather events. In late May and early June, the two slow-moving low-pressure systems Elvira and Friederike caused thunderstorms, flash floods, and river flooding, with France and Germany being worst hit. The total insured losses from these storms and floods were USD 2.8 billion.

Two major earthquakes strike on same day
A series of earthquakes struck the Kumamoto prefecture in Japan, including a 7.0-magnitude quake that struck during the early hours of 16 April 2016. The quakes resulted in extensive structural damage, fires, and collapsed buildings. Insured losses from the series of shocks amounted to USD 5.6 billion. There were 64 fatalities.

On the same day on the other side of the world, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador. The worst-hit area was Manabí Province on the coast, where bridges and buildings collapsed. In total 668 people died in the earthquake, making it the deadliest single event in the first half of the year. Given the low insurance penetration, insured losses came to just USD 400 million.

Wildfires in Canada were another cause of large insurance losses in the first half of 2016. Dry conditions and strong winds led to the rapid spread of wildfires in Alberta, Canada. The town of Fort McMurray was evacuated, where many homes were completely destroyed. The area is the heart of Canada's oil sands production, and the overall insured losses totalled to USD 2.5 billion, making this one of the costliest wildfire events in insurance industry history.

The global insured loss total for the first half may be subject to revision. Any revision as well as the ongoing hurricane season in the North Atlantic could generate higher losses in the remainder of the year.


Table 1: Total economic and insured losses in first-half 2016 and 2015

Table 2:  The most costly insurance natural catastrophe losses in first-half 2016 (USD billion)



Notes to editors

Swiss Re
The Swiss Re Group is a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer. Dealing direct and working through brokers, its global client base consists of insurance companies, mid-to-large-sized corporations and public sector clients. From standard products to tailor-made coverage across all lines of business, Swiss Re deploys its capital strength, expertise and innovation power to enable the risk-taking upon which enterprise and progress in society depend. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re serves clients through a network of around 70 offices globally and is rated "AA-" by Standard & Poor's, "Aa3" by Moody's and "A+" by A.M. Best. Registered shares in the Swiss Re Group holding company, Swiss Re Ltd, are listed in accordance with the International Reporting Standard on the SIX Swiss Exchange and trade under the symbol SREN. For more information about Swiss Re Group, please visit: or follow us on Twitter @SwissRe.

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