Deadliest year since 1976 with 260,000 deaths

Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters have cost the insurance industry $36bn in 2010, up 34% on 2009.

Initial estimate figures from Swiss Re show natural catastrophes cost the global insurance industry roughly $31bn in 2010, and man-made disasters triggered additional claims of approximately $5bn.

By comparision, insured losses totalled £27bn in 2009.

Despite higher than average earthquake losses, overall claims were in line with the 20-year average due to significantly lower US hurricane losses.

In the first eleven months of 2010, eight events each triggered insurance losses in excess of $1bn.

The costliest event in 2010 was the earthquake in Chile in February, which cost the insurance industry $8bn, according to Swiss Re’s preliminary estimates.

The New Zealand 7.7 magnitude earthquake, which struck 4 September, cost insurers approximately $2.7bn; while winter storm Xynthia in Western Europe led to insured losses of $2.8bn.

Swiss Re’s chief economist, Thomas Hess, said: “[The figures] revealed large differences in how developed insurance systems are in the affected countries and how important insurance is in coping with the financial consequences of disasters.”

“While most of the costliest events caused by the earthquakes in Chile and New Zealand and the winter storm in Western Europe were covered by insurance, events like the earthquake in Haiti and floods in Asia were barely insured,” he added.

2010 has also proved the deadliest year for catastrophes since 1976, with approximately 260,000 people dying.

The deadliest single event in 2010 was the Haitian earthquake in January, in which more than 220,000 people died. Approximately 15,000 people died during the summer heat wave in Russia. The summer floods in China and Pakistan also resulted in 6,225 deaths.