(Bloomberg News) Axa SA, the French insurer that underwrites more than $1 billion of art in Manhattan's Chelsea district, said it has received $40 million in claims from Hurricane Sandy and has already sent checks to policyholders.

"The magnitude of the situation is completely manageable for Axa Art," Christiane Fischer, the president and chief executive officer for the Americas ov Axa unit Axa Art, said today in an e-mailed statement. "Fortunately, our clients took a lot of preventative action before the storm hit the region."

Sandy caused as much as $50 billion in economic damage, according to Eqecat Inc., a provider of catastrophic risk models. The U.S. death toll stands at more than 100. The storm flooded dozens of art galleries.

Fischer said the company was able to start the recovery actions "the morning after the storm." Axa Art started sending out checks as advances last week and settled its first claim today.

Staff members went to view damage in Chelsea, where the company insures 66 galleries, and in downtown Manhattan. If an artwork could be restored to original condition, there would be no loss in value, Fischer said.

"If the cost of conserving the work is higher than the market value of the work, we'll consider it a total loss," she said during a conference call on Nov. 3.

While Axa Art won't cancel existing policies, it will reconsider the risk of each client's location at the time of the policy renewal, Fischer said.