Worldwide natural disasters caused $175 billion in damages in 2016 — the highest since 2012, according to German reinsurance giant Munich Re. The secondary insurance company's figure shows a nearly two-thirds increase in financial impact from the previous year, though the number of casualties caused by natural disasters was much lower than 2015, at 8,700 deaths compared to 25,400. The costliest natural disasters took place in Asia — two earthquakes cost Japan $31 billion in losses, and flooding in China over the summer cost $20 billion. North America faced 160 natural disasters — the highest number for the continent in a single year since 1980. The costliest and deadliest was Hurricane Matthew, which killed at least 550 in Haiti alone and caused $10 billion in damage. The United States and Canada also faced widespread wildfires and floods in 2016. A series of storms in Europe caused $6 billion in damage and also contributed to record flooding around the world. Floods accounted for 34 percent of all financial losses in 2016 — an "exceptional" figure compared with the average of 21 percent over the last decade. "A look at the weather-related catastrophes of 2016 shows the potential effects of unchecked climate change," said Peter Hoeppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks research unit, though he specified that individual events cannot be directly attributed to climate change. Approximately 70 percent of the losses recorded by Munich Re were uninsured, the company said Wednesday.
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January 18, 2017