* Japanese earthquakes, Chinese floods most expensive
* 70 percent of losses uninsured
* Second-fewest fatalities in 30 years
(Adds details on catastrophes)
FRANKFURT, Jan 4 Insurers paid out around $50
billion for natural disaster claims last year, almost double
2015's payout of $27 billion, reinsurer Munich Re
said in its annual natural catastrophe review on Wednesday.
Earthquakes in Japan and devastating floods in China - only
2 percent of whose losses were insured - were the most expensive
natural catastrophes of 2016. But the year saw the second-fewest
fatalities from natural disasters in 30 years.
Some $125 billion of losses were uninsured.
It was the costliest twelve months for natural catastrophe
damage after three years of relatively low losses, and above the
10-year average of $45.1 billion.
"Losses in a single year are obviously random and cannot be
seen as a trend," said board member Torsten Jeworrek. "The high
percentage of uninsured losses, especially in emerging markets
and developing countries, remains a concern."
Reinsurers act as a financial backstop to insurance
companies, paying a chunk of the big claims for storms or
earthquakes in exchange for part of the premium.
Lower claims payouts boost insurance industry profit but
have a downside for reinsurers, whose insurance company clients
often then demand lower prices for reinsurers' backing.
Two earthquakes on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu in
April caused overall losses of $31 billion, while floods in
China in June and July caused losses of $20 billion.
"There are now many indications that certain events - such
as persistent weather systems or storms bringing torrential rain
and hail - are more likely to occur in certain regions as a
result of climate change," said Peter Hoeppe, Head of Munich
Re's Geo Risks Research Unit.
North America was hit by more natural disasters than in any
year since 1980, with overall losses totalling $10.2 billion and
Hurricane Matthew the most serious event. Its greatest impact
was in Haiti, where it killed around 550 people.
The climate phenomenon known as 'El Niño' had in 2015 helped
reduce the development of hurricanes in the North Atlantic,
which traditionally cause some of the heaviest claims for the
Globally, 8,700 people were killed by natural disasters in
2016, far fewer than the 25,400 fatalities in 2015 and the
10-year average of 60,600.
The review gave no claims figures for Munich Re itself. The
reinsurer is due to report 2015 results on Feb. 7.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan and Maria Sheahan; Editing by
Harro ten Wolde and Alexandra Hudson)