Munich Re Reports on Tsunami Loss Inspection Results

December 28, 2005

Munich Re has released the results of a “loss inspection” conducted on the West Coast of Thailand to assess the consequences of the devastating tsunami, which struck the area one year ago.

Experts from the reinsurer’s Geo Risks Research team have now analyzed the results and have drawn certain conclusions which will enable companies to better assess future loss potentials and risk premium rates.

“The tsunami that followed the earthquake off the coast of northern Sumatra in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 triggered the worst human disaster caused by a natural hazard event since the Tangshan earthquake in China in 1976,” said the bulletin. “Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, Kenya, and Somalia — the affected area was huge.”

While overall property damage has been estimated at around $10 billion, the insured losses were significantly less. Munich Re said these losses, “which invloved not only propperty coverage but also “insurances of the person (life, personal accident, health, and travel insurance), there were still no reliable figures available at the time of writing. But they are not likely to be over $ 1 billion.”

A year after the catastrophe, in which nearly a quarter of a million people lost their lives, the work of rebuilding continues. In some areas, such as the resorts on the Thai coast, great progress has been made, with infrastructure almost back to pre-tsunami levels. In other areas much remains to be done. But the worldwide pledges of aid that followed the disaster have largely been honored and the work of reconstructing the shattered communities and the lives of the people who live in them continues.

Munich Re said its inspection teams “chose the tourist centers of Khao Lak and Phuket in Thailand because the effects of the tsunami and the damage to hotel complexes and buildings observed there are most readily transferable to insured risks in other exposed coastal areas.”

The investigations show which factors influence the scale of damage caused by tsunamis. “The main factors are wave height, depth of flood penetration, structural quality of buildings, plus velocity of flow and the volume of debris carried by the wave.”

The report noted: “With speeds of 30—40 km/h [18 to 24 mph], the Sumatra tsunami is classed as being relatively slow. Other events — like the tsunami on the north coast of Papua New Guinea (Sissano Lagune) in 1998 — reached speeds of 70 km/h [42 mph]. The loss inspection revealed that, in contrast, the volume of sediment and debris in the Sumatra tsunami was comparatively large.”

More from the report, including the statistics and assessments may be viewed on the company’s Website at:

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