Many of us in the catastrophe risk management industry actively help communities in need after natural disasters – through donations, working with organizations to promote resilience, or through on-the-ground assistance. Our intimate understanding of the power of these catastrophes makes us acutely aware of the need to act.
RMS and Build Change
Every year, a team of RMS employees and clients work together to help support our longstanding partner, Build Change, on how to ensure vulnerable communities benefit from safer housing, retrofitting and sound construction methods. The skills that both our employees and clients bring are very complementary to these tasks, and knowledge of risk modeling and analytics, and how to use this knowledge to develop resilience is highly valued.
Following successful visits to Haiti and Nepal in recent years, this year’s RMS Impact Trek visits the Philippines for the first time, with the team (including myself) on the ground in the country from March 17–25.
Build Change have been active in the Philippines since 2013. They have worked on a range of long-term projects from helping to rebuild schools, pre-disaster retrofitting of homes in poorer areas of Manila, through to training technicians in disaster-resistant construction skills in Guiuan in southeast Samar.
In September, Typhoon Mangkhut wrought a path of destruction across the western North Pacific, causing damage from Guam, to the Philippines, Hong Kong, and southern China. For Hong Kong, Mangkhut was the second strong typhoon to impact the region in consecutive years, following Typhoon Hato in 2017. Damage was extensive – according to local media, at least 500 homes and high-rise buildings in Hong Kong, including apartment complexes and office blocks, were severely damaged.
In the weeks following Mangkhut, RMS worked with the Insurance Authority (IA) – the independent insurance regulator for Hong Kong, to help provide (re)insurers in the region with some context and scientific analysis around this event. According to data from the insurers gathered by the IA, Typhoon Mangkhut caused total insured losses of HKD 3.5 billion (US$448 million) in Hong Kong. This figure, collected as at October 12, three weeks after Mangkhut’s landfall, represents losses reported by insurance and reinsurance companies in Hong Kong. With the loss information provided by the IA and using the RMS China and Hong Kong Typhoon Model, RMS estimated Mangkhut to have a return period of 30 to 40 years in Hong Kong.1
Many of us across the risk management industry actively help communities in need after natural disasters, through donations, working with organizations to promote resilience, or through on-the-ground assistance. Our intimate understanding of the power of these catastrophes makes us acutely aware of the need to act.
This is true for everyone here at RMS, where our values embrace the need to understand risk, build resiliency, and make an impact to help improve the lives of communities who live with the threat of natural disasters. One of the ways we live our values is through our annual RMS Impact Trek, where both RMS employees and our clients work with the social enterprise Build Change in some of the world’s most catastrophe-prone areas.
If you are an RMS client, I would like to extend an invitation to our annual RMS Impact Trek. This is the fourth year that we are sponsoring representatives from our clients to join RMS employees and Build Change so that their skills can be used to build stronger communities.
Images of total devastation from Typhoon Haiyan shocked the global community in 2013, and Haiyan still haunts the Philippines five years on. At 4.40 a.m. local time on Friday, November 8, 2013, the city of Guiuan (pop. ~52,000) on the island of Leyte, in the Eastern Visayas, Philippines, first experienced the full force of Typhoon Haiyan (Super Typhoon Yolanda) as it made landfall. The city’s mayor declared “100 percent damage.” A community found itself homeless as 10,008 structures in Guiuan were destroyed and 1,601 were partially damaged. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) estimated Haiyan’s one-minute sustained winds at 315 kilometers per hour (195 miles per hour) at landfall, and at the time, this unofficially made Haiyan the strongest tropical cyclone ever observed based on wind speed.
Haiyan was a story of prolific intensification, starting life as an area of low pressure some 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) east-southeast from landfall just six days previously. Warmed by the Pacific, Haiyan was a tropical depression on November 3, tropical storm on November 4, and claimed typhoon status by November 5. Four days into monitoring, by November 6, the JTWC assessed Haiyan as the equivalent of a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS). It continued to intensify before landfall.
This is my experience of Typhoon Mangkhut. I live in Tseung Kwan O in the New Territories, Hong Kong, some five miles (eight kilometers) east of downtown Hong Kong, and home to around 370,000 residents. Hong Kong, which ranks just above Luxembourg in terms of geographical area, is the fourth-most densely populated region in the world, with a population around 7.5 million. Because of so many people living in a small area, it is full of towers — Hong Kong as a city has the most skyscrapers in the world, with 317 towers taller than 150 meters (490 feet).
My home is also in a high-rise development, part of The Wings complex in Tseung Kwan O, which includes eight towers built around six years ago, with the towers rising to 41 stories. The towers overlook Junk Bay to the south, and is right next to the eastern end of the famous Victoria Harbor between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
My experience of Typhoon Mangkhut is similar to many residents — as of course, many of us do live in high-rise towers. The center of Mangkhut passed close by Hong Kong at a weekend, on Sunday, September 16, and on the day of the typhoon, we were acting on the official advice and all staying at home.
Typhoon Trami ravaged the southern coastline of Japan this weekend, only 26 days since Typhoon Jebi made landfall on September 4. Trami first swept through the southwest chain of Nansei Islands, and then skirted along the southern coasts of the islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, eventually making landfall over Wakayama Prefecture in the Kansai Region, during the evening of Sunday, September 30.
The southwest of Japan bore the brunt of Trami, and as of Tuesday, October 2, the Japan Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA) reported a total of 2,494 buildings damaged across 32 prefectures, with 1,749 of the 2,494 damaged buildings reported as “partially damaged”, and 108 buildings “destroyed” or “partially-destroyed”. A further 637 buildings were flooded in the event. At least 195 people across 29 prefectures have been injured, with many hurt by windows shattered in high winds. 750,000 homes across Japan lost power, together with significant disruption to transport. These numbers are expected to rise as damage assessments conclude.
Four hundred miles southwest of the Japanese mainland on Okinawa Island, the largest of the Nansei Islands with a population of 1.3 million, wind gusts reached 126 miles per hour (202 kilometers per hour) at Itokazu locality in Nanjō City. Five or so miles up from Itokazu, winds topped 103 miles per hour (165 kilometers per hour) and gusts exceeded 132 miles per hour (212 kilometers per hour), at the Kadena Air Base.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, September 28, has already claimed the sinister accolade of being the deadliest earthquake in the world this year.
According to local authorities, there have so far been 1,374 reported fatalities, but this figure is set to rise as rescue efforts spread out from the main cities. At this stage, thousands of people are believed to still be trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, and at least 60,000 people are displaced with limited food and water supplies.
The 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the island of Sulawesi on Friday, September 28, approximately 48 miles (78 kilometers) north of Palu, a coastal city with around 330,000 residents. The earthquake triggered a ten foot (three meter) high tsunami, that impacted the coastal areas of western Central Sulawesi, including Palu City and Donggala, a regency with a population of around 275,000.
From the small city of Baggao, Cagayan Province in the Philippines, to Hong Kong and further into China — locations across these two countries look to recover after Typhoon Mangkhut (25W). After landfall in Guam on Monday, September 10, Mangkhut — known locally as Ompong in the Philippines, made landfall again at 2 a.m. Saturday local time (18:00 UTC, Friday, September 14) near Baggao, as the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS).
Maximum sustained wind speeds at landfall were 133 miles per hour (214 kilometers per hour) according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported similar results to the JMA with maximum sustained wind speeds of 134 miles per hour (215 kilometers per hour), but the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported 166 miles per hour (268 kilometers per hour), equivalent to a Category 5 major hurricane on the SSHWS.
Super Typhoon Mangkhut (26W) — the twenty-fourth named storm in the western North Pacific this year, was tracking over open ocean around 321 miles (516 kilometers) east-northeast of Manila, Philippines at 0000 UTC Friday, September 14. Mangkhut, named as Ompong in the Philippines using the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) naming system, is the first storm of typhoon strength to impact the Philippines since Typhoon Nock-ten on December 25, 2016, after 2017 proved relatively quiet, typhoon-free year for the country.
With the Philippines currently in the monsoon season (south west monsoon), which brings rain to western parts of the country, Typhoon Mangkhut is enhancing this monsoon system (termed as a “Hanging Habagat” locally) to bring heavier rains to the western side of the Philippines including Palawan, the Visayas, and northern Mindanao. Mangkhut is the strongest storm of the year so far — currently a category 5 equivalent storm (on the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale — SSHWS) with 1-minute sustained winds of 166 miles per hour (267 kilometers per hour) as reported by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).
The pace of change continues to accelerate across the insurance industry, whether it is from technology, regulation or market developments, and EXPOSURE magazine helps risk professionals to explore some of the key drivers of these changes.
In this latest edition available for distribution at the Monte Carlo Rendezvous and online, the lead story looks at the recent market activity from Tower Insurance in New Zealand. By adopting high-definition earthquake modeling, Tower gained the confidence to launch risk-based pricing for its customers, providing savings for the majority of policyholders, but increases for others. EXPOSURE looks at the implications of Tower’s actions and how this could affect the New Zealand insurance market.
High resolution modeling has also helped Flood Re in the U.K. to better understand how it can work towards its remit of delivering a flood insurance market based on risk-reflective pricing that is affordable to policyholders. EXPOSURE shows how innovative use of modeling could guide Flood Re when recommending investment measures to protect properties at risk of flooding.