According to initial estimates from Swiss Re's sigma team, worldwide economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters were USD 222 billion in 2010, more than triple the 2009 figure of USD 63 billion.

The cost to the global insurance industry was USD 36 billion, an increase of 34% over the previous year. Approximately 260 000 people died in these events, the highest number since 1976.

This report was made public on 30 November, and therefore does not take into consideration "Natural and man-made catastrophes in 2010" which have, or could occur at the latter part of 2010.

The comprehensive sigma study "Natural and man-made catastrophes in 2010" will
be published in spring 2011.

In 2010, severe catastrophes claimed significantly more lives than the previous year: nearly 260 000 were killed, compared to 15 000 in 2009. The deadliest event in 2010 was the Haiti earthquake in January, claiming more than 222 000 lives. 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.

High earthquake losses in 2010

Natural catastrophes cost the global insurance industry roughly USD 31 billion in 2010, and man-made disasters triggered additional claims of approximately USD 5 billion. By way of comparison, overall insured losses totalled USD 27 billion in 2009. Despite notably higher than average earthquake losses, overall claims in 2010 were in line with the 20-year average due to unusually modest US hurricane losses.

Eight events triggered losses of over USD 1 billion each

In the first eleven months of 2010, eight events each triggered insurance losses in excess of USD 1 billion. The costliest event in 2010 was the earthquake in Chile in February, which cost the insurance industry USD 8 billion, according to preliminary estimates.

The earthquake that struck New Zealand in September cost insurers roughly USD 2.7 billion. Winter storm Xynthia in Western Europe led to insured losses of USD 2.8 billion. Property claims from the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico are estimated at USD 1 billion. Given the complexity of the claims, the figure is still subject to substantial uncertainty. The overall insurance loss is higher, as liability losses are not included in the sigma numbers.

Floods France during the month of June caused insured losses just below USD 1 billion.