Financial losses from natural catastrophes surged strongly in the first six months of this year, new figures show.

The losses driven by powerful earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador, storms in Europe and the US, and forest fires in Canada, German reinsurer Munich Re said. 

"Losses caused by natural catastrophes in the first half of 2016 were significantly higher than the corresponding figures for the previous year," Munich Re said in a statement. 

"In total, losses by the end of June came to $70 billion (€63 billion) compared with $59 billion the previous year."

Insured losses amounted to $27 billion for the six-month period, compared with $19 billion the year before. 

Overall losses were above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years, but below the average for the last 10 years, Munich Re said. 

Natural disasters claimed 3,800 lives in the first half, significantly fewer than the 21,000 recorded in the same period a year earlier. 

The highest losses were caused by two earthquakes on the Japanese island of Kyushu in April - $25 billion, of which $6 billon was insured, Munich Re said. 

But also of "particular note were a series of storms in the US and Europe, massive forest fires in Canada and the complete absence of typhoons in the northwestern Pacific," Munich Re said.