Tsunami damage to further burden insurers

Wednesday, 29 December 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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BERLIN: Major insurers will face new costs after the full extent of the damage caused by the tsunamis in southern Asia becomes known, though experts say the financial impact is likely to be less than that of other disasters this year.

The extent of the damage following Sunday's deadly waves is still impossible to predict, according to Deutsche Welle radio.

The affected region, which includes Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and even Africa, is simply too large, too little is known about the situation, and the information coming out of the region is too diffuse.

Experts say it will take several days before there is reliable information about the number of victims and the scope of the damage.

It's possible, however, that the cost for insurers will be less than that incurred by the hurricanes earlier this year that wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, Florida, and parts of Asia.

"My guess is that the overall damage from the underwater earthquake will turn out to be less than the damage caused by the hurricanes in Florida and
the Caribbean," said Konrad Becker, analyst with Merck Finck agency.

"The earthquake unfortunately hit the poorest of the poor, which is why the property insurance values will be lower," another analyst said on condition of anonymity.

In comparison with the hurricanes that wiped out entire districts in Florida and caused considerable damage in Miami, the effects of the tsunamis was
limited to the coastal areas of the affected countries.

No large cities, industrial parks or factories with higher insurance values were devastated.

Insurance firms are so far holding back with their prognoses of the extent of tsunami-related damage claims.

"It's still too early for us to assess the effects this could have for Swiss Re," said Simone Lauper, press spokesperson for Swiss Re, the world's second
largest reinsurer.

"We still don't have damage reports from the affected countries, because the
information on the ground is still unclear."

According to research from Swiss Re, 2004 was already the most expensive year to date for the reinsurance sector, even before the tsunamis hit.

A string of disasters both natural and man-made have prompted claims to property insurers of about $42 billion, Swiss Re estimated.

Source: IANS
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