Disasters claimed 10,000 lives, cost $158 billion in 2016: Swiss Re

A tent set up as polling station is seen from the interior of a classroom destroyed by Hurricane Matthew at the National School of Damassins, Haiti, November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

ZURICH (Reuters) - More than 10,000 people died as a result of natural and man-made disasters during 2016, with financial losses totalling at least $158 billion, Swiss Re said on Thursday.

At an estimated $49 billion, insured losses rose by nearly a third from $37 billion in 2015, but covered less than a third of the costs incurred from catastrophes over the year.

“The gap between total losses and insured losses in 2016 shows that many events took place in areas where insurance coverage was low,” Swiss Re said in a statement.

Hurricane Matthew was 2016’s deadliest natural catastrophe, Swiss Re said, claiming up to 733 lives, primarily in Haiti.

Matthew caused devastation in Haiti and throughout the east Caribbean in October before hitting the United States’ southeastern coast, leaving $8 billion in losses, Swiss Re said, of which $4 billion were insured. Other estimates have put insured losses at up to $8 billion.

A string of shocks and aftershocks that hit Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture, including a 7.0-magnitude quake in April, claimed 137 lives and were the costliest disaster of 2016, causing $20 billion in losses, of which only a quarter were insured.

“Society is underinsured against earthquake risk, and the protection gap is a global concern,” Swiss Re Chief Economist Kurt Karl said.

Swiss Re estimated the cost of Canada’s Fort McMurray wildfires--the country’s costliest disaster ever for insurers--at $3.9 billion on an economic level and $2.8 billion for insurers.

Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Alexander Smith