Economic losses stood at $218bn

Natural and man-made disasters cost the insurance industry $43bn in 2010, according to Swiss Re's latest Sigma study. This is an increase of more than 60% over 2009's $27bn.

Total economic losses for the year were $218bn for the year, more than triple the 2009 level of $68bn.

”2010 was not only characterised by severe earthquakes that ranked among the deadliest, costliest and most powerful in history, but also by a series of extreme weather events, such as major floods," said Swiss Re chief economist Thomas Hess in a statement. "Some of these flood events sadly affected countries with poor emergency preparedness and underdeveloped insurance markets.”

Of the insured total, Swiss Re attributed $40bn to natural catastrophes and the balance to man-made events. The costliest event was the 8.8 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in Chile on 27 February 2010, which cost the industry $8bn.

The most deadly event of 2010 was the Haiti earthquake in January, which killed more than 222,000 people. Overall, catastrophes claimed 304,000 lives in 2010 compared with 15,000 in 2009.

Earthquakes accounted for a third of all natural catastrophe losses in 2010, dominated by the Chile quake and September's event in Christchurch, New Zealand, which cost insurers $4.4bn.

Insured losses were higherst in North America at $15bn. "Despite very low hurricane losses due to the absence of hurricanes making direct landfall in the US, a series of lesser storms throughout the year resulted in this high figure,” said Lucia Bevere, one of the Sigma study's authors.