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Natural catastrophe insured losses at highest level in four years

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Insured losses from global natural catastrophes reached an estimated $39.5 billion in 2016, according to a report released Friday by Willis Re.

These losses reached their highest level since the $60 billion in insured natural catastrophe losses experienced in 2012, reversing a trend of declining insured losses, according to the report by the reinsurance division of Willis Towers Watson P.L.C. 

The largest single insured loss came from the Kumamoto earthquake in Japan in April 2016, with losses exceeding $4.8 billion, according to the report. The catastrophe caused economic losses estimated between $5.5 billion and $10 billion and at least 65 fatalities. 

Canada’s Fort McMurray wildfire in May caused insured losses of about $3.5 billion; Hurricane Matthew in early October resulted in the largest single insured loss in the United States at $2.3 billion; and the combined effects of windstorms Elvira and Friedrike in Europe over the summer produced losses of $2.5 billion.

Despite natural catastrophe insured losses falling in the last five years to 2016, they are still significant, and lower-profile perils such as the wildfire around Fort McMurray have the potential to cause substantial losses, London-based John E. Alarcon, executive director of catastrophe analytics for Willis Re International, said in a statement. 

“Importantly, our report also highlights that economic losses continue to be higher than insured losses and substantially so in some regions,” he said.