Human activity pushes rise in Asia cats

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Human activity is behind some of the increased catastrophe activity that has struck Asia in recent times, experts from RMS and Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance have highlighted. Speaking at RMS’ annual Exceedance conference in Miami, Hemant Nagpal, director of model product management at the firm’s Singapore office, described how human activity has exacerbated flood losses across the continent. “You have rapid and unplanned urbanisation, and as a result the groundwater extraction leads to increased rates of subsidence, or the lowering of the ground,” he explained. Some of the cities impacted by this sinking action included Bangkok, Jakarta, and Manila, although Nagpal did point out that Tokyo, which had experienced subsidence in the past, had taken steps to reduce groundwater extraction and therefore mitigate its impacts. “Tokyo did experience a lot of subsidence until the 1960s, when it stopped groundwater extraction, and what we see is within 10 years the subsidence stopped. But that is not true for other Asian cities. New buildings and the weight of skyscrapers are feeding into subsidence as well.” For developing Asian cities, subsidence combined with rising sea levels has led to increased flood losses, Nagpal said. “This has led to more frequent flooding, with normal rainfall events leading to much more intense flooding because the drainage is becoming increasingly ineffective due to subsidence. That is something we are planning to look into when we come up with new models in the next few years,” Nagpal said. The modelling firm is planning on releasing or updating its inland flood models in mainland China, India and the Philippines, with its inland flood product for India expected to launch this year, while its typhoon and inland flood model in the Philippines will be the first model in the world to capture wind and typhoon related flooding as well as coastal and non-coastal flooding in the country. In South Korea, earthquake risk has risen steadily but observably over the past few years, with losses still very low but increasing rapidly. According to data from Chun-Woo Baek, senior research fellow at Hyundai Marine & Fire Insurance in South Korea, the number of earthquake-related claims has increased substantially over the past two years, with the strongest two quakes to ever hit the country occurring in 2016 and 2017. There were only two quake related claims in the country from 1999 to 2015, but 152 claims in 2016, and 873 in 2017. While the 5.8M quake in 2017 was the strongest on record to hit the country, it did not cause extensive damage, and was relatively weak as earthquakes go. However, it still highlighted a shifting pattern towards ever more powerful tremblers in the country. “Because Korea is very far from the Ring of Fire, it has been known as an earthquake safe country, but I think that Korea is not necessarily an earthquake free country,” Baek said. “According to Korean seismologists this kind of increase in seismic activity is due to the development of military technology,” he explained. The previous strongest inland earthquake that occurred in the country happened in 1978. According to Baek, as a result of the historically low earthquake risk in the country the peril is not very well understood or modeled by either the government or the insurance industry, but highlighted that Hyundai would be working with RMS to help bring further attention to the issue.

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