The Kaikoura quake was the seventh most costly natural disaster last year, according to a report by global reinsurer Munich Re.

The quake, which hit on November 14 last year, cost US$3.9 billion of which US$2.1b was picked up by insurance companies.

But it paled in comparison to the cost of the biggest natural disasters.

Earthquakes in Japan in April were the costliest event at US$31b of which US$6b were insured losses.

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Floods in China cost US$20b of which only US$520 million were insured losses.

In total, overall losses for 2016 added up to US$175b - and taking inflation into account it was one of the 10 costliest years on record.

Of that total only US$50b was covered by insurers.

The report said 2016 was the fifth-costliest year for the insurance industry since 1980.

But the good news was that despite it being an expensive year for natural disasters the loss of human life was lower than past years.

Munich Re reports that around 9200 people died globally as a result of natural disasters - the lowest number of fatalities in 30 years barring 2014 when there were 8050.

Two people died as a result of New Zealand's Kaikoura quake.

Costliest natural disasters for 2016 in US dollars