AIR Says Brussels Attacks Have Limited Insurer Impact; FERMA Issues Comment

March 24, 2016

The deadly coordinated attacks in Brussels on March 22, which killed 33 people and wounded 260. are expected to have limited impact on the insurance industry, according to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide.

Loss of life and injuries to individuals involved are the most substantial consequences of the attack, said AIR in a statement.

On the other hand, damage to buildings is expected to be minimal, resulting in limited insured property losses, which is similar to the November 2015 Paris attacks by the so-called Islamic State (IS).

Any resulting insured losses from this attack are covered by the Belgian Terrorism Reinsurance and Insurance Pool (TRIP). Annual cover from the pool is limited to €1 billion (approximately $1.12 billion), AIR said.

Participation in the pool is not compulsory, AIR explained, citing figures issued by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which says approximately 95 percent of insurers operating in Belgium contribute to the pool.

AIR’s Review of Brussels’ Blasts

“Suicide bombers affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) attacked both Zaventem Airport and a Brussels metro station Tuesday morning, March 22, in a coordinated attack that killed 33 people and wounded 260,” said Jonathon Green, risk consultant at AIR Worldwide.

“As a result of the attacks—which took place just days after the capture of Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the massive and coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris November 13—Belgium raised the terror threat level to four, its highest level. Authorities urged people throughout Belgium to stay inside until about 4:00 p.m. Tuesday,” Green continued.

At Zaventem Airport, two suicide bombers exploded bomb vests or other portable devices at 7:58 a.m. in the airport departure area, the first in front of the check-in desks for SN Brussels Airlines and American Airlines, the second moments later beside a Starbucks café, AIR said.

Belgium health officials reported 13 people killed and 81 wounded from these blasts. (Reportedly, an unexploded suicide vest was found at the scene.) Immediately following the blasts Zaventem was evacuated, all inbound flights were diverted, and all outbound flights were canceled.

A little more than an hour later, at 9:11 a.m., another suicide bomber – the brother of one of the airport bombers – targeted a train leaving the Maelbeek metro station heading toward Arts-Loi, AIR said in its overview of the events.

According to the Brussels mayor, 20 people died and 179 were wounded in this central Brussels attack, which took place near European Union offices. Subsequently, the entire metro system was closed, and all Eurostar trains were canceled. Metro stations were reopened at 4:00 p.m.

A number of shopping centers in Brussels were closed and “extra security precautions reportedly were implemented at Belgium nuclear power plants in Engie and Tihange,” AIR said.

Green went on to say: “In the hours after the attacks, Belgian authorities made a number of raids during an intensive manhunt for people involved in the attacks, including at the address where a taxi driver had picked up the three individuals identified in the airport attacks. During the searches on Tuesday, one suspect was arrested in the Anderlecht district of Brussels, although his identity has not been made public.”

Following the Brussels attacks, authorities tightened security in the United Kingdom and France (including in Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament), as well as at borders throughout Europe, AIR continued.

Security was also enhanced in Asia – where some governments have been on high alert since terrorist attacks in Jakarta, Indonesia in January – and in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and other major U.S. cities.

The extent of the damage to the airport and the metro system, as well as to adjacent structures, is unclear at this time, but the widespread economic ramifications of the attack quickly became evident. Stock futures dropped Tuesday, with many travel-related stocks falling. On Wednesday the European stock markets rebounded, AIR affirmed.

“Attacks on public facilities, such as Zaventem Airport and the Brussels metro, are intended not only to kill, maim, and disrupt, but they are also meant to inflict debilitating psychological scars and foster a sense of insecurity among the population and the feeling that the government is unable to protect citizens,” Green noted.
“Accordingly, governments’ prompt recovery is important to those who have been attacked. Reopening train stations, shops, and businesses—as well as a recovering stock market—are positive signs after such as assault,” he added.

Comment from FERMA

“The senseless, devastating attacks in Brussels on March 22, coming as they do after those in Paris in November 2015, were not just an attack on Belgium, but an attack on the symbol of Europe,” said Jo Willaert, president of the Federation of European Risk Management Associations (FERMA), which is based in Brussels.

“Terrorism is a threat for all of our societies, and union and solidarity in the international community are fundamental. These attacks show how important it is for us to manage these risks to the security of our organisations and society as a whole,” Willaert added.

“A united Europe, determined not to give up the values of freedom and democracy without fear, religious hatred and racism, is the only answer to this barbarity. We will never accept that these actions undermine the will of all Europeans to live and work together.”

Source: AIR Worldwide and Federation of European Risk Management Associations

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