AIR Estimates Insured Losses from Chile Earthquake at $600M to $900M

September 22, 2015

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimates that insured losses from the Magnitude 8.3 earthquake that struck Chile’s central coast near Illapel on Sept. 16 will be between CLP 400 billion ($600 million) and CLP 600 billion ($900 million).

“The September 16 earthquake was the result of convergence between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates,” said Dr. Mehrdad Mahdyiar, VP and senior director of earthquake hazard research at AIR. “Here, the Nazca plate plunges beneath the South American plate, forming a subduction zone. Active subduction zones are some of the most likely plate interfaces to generate quakes of catastrophic magnitude and also pose the greatest risk of triggering tsunami genic tectonic events.”

Reports indicate that “at least 12 people have died as a result of the quake, which was felt as far away as São Paulo, Brazil, more than 3,000 km [1864 miles] away,” AIR said. “Strong shaking was felt in Chile’s capital city of Santiago, the nation’s most populous city, where tall buildings swayed for up to three minutes.”

Dr. Mahdyiar explained that the “main shock, which was followed by several strong aftershocks, triggered a tsunami that was recorded in several countries. The tsunami produced waves up to 1 meter [3.28 feet] in height as far away as the Hawaiian Islands.”

AIR also reported that the highest wave – nearly 5 meters [16 ½ feet] hit the port city of Coquimbo, producing debris and washing fishing boats inland into the downtown area, where homes and businesses were inundated. The town of Illapel, located directly east of the quake’s epicenter, suffered the heaviest damage resulting from strong ground motion.

According to ONEMI, the Chilean agency responsible for public safety and emergency response, “more than 400 residential buildings have been destroyed; in addition to these, more than 700 residential buildings have sustained major damage. Chile is the world’s leading producer of copper, and several mines were affected by ground shaking caused by the quake,” AIR said.

“The 2010 M8.8 Maule earthquake released a significant amount of accumulated energy and reduced the seismic risk offshore of Santiago, but increased the risk along the northern segment of the subduction,” Dr. Mahdyiar added.

“The rupture area and the slip distributions of the recent earthquake and that of the 2010 Maule earthquake suggest that a small part of the Nazca subduction zone south of the rupture area of this recent earthquake and north of the rupture area of the Maule earthquake did not rupture during these two earthquakes and should be at a higher state of stress, thus increasing the likelihood of a future earthquake. This segment of the Nazca plate experienced partial or full ruptures during the 1906 M8.2 and 1985 M7.98 earthquakes and is capable of producing an M7.5 to M8.0 earthquake.”

AIR also noted that the “location and magnitude of this earthquake are consistent with AIR’s recent seismicity model for this region. AIR’s time-dependent model for this region estimates a higher rupture probability for this type of earthquake compared to the corresponding time-independent estimate.”

AIR added that its “loss estimates explicitly capture damage from ground shaking, tsunami, and liquefaction. Losses are dominated by shake damage in AIR’s scenarios, with a very small contribution from liquefaction. AIR’s estimates are based on assumptions about take-up rates in Chile (the percentage of properties actually insured against the earthquake peril), about which there is considerable uncertainty. The range in loss estimates reflects uncertainty in the slip distribution at the fault, modeled ground motion, tsunami inundation, and damage estimation.”

AIR’s insured loss estimates reflect:

  • Insured physical damage to onshore property (residential, commercial/industrial), both structures and their contents, and auto
  • Direct business interruption losses

The loss estimates, however, do not reflect:

  • Losses to uninsured properties
  • Losses to land
  • Losses to infrastructure
  • Indirect business interruption losses
  • Loss adjustment expenses
  • Losses from non-modeled perils, including fire-following and landslide
  • Demand surge—the increase in costs of materials, services, and labor due to increased demand following a catastrophic event.

Source: AIR Worldwide

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