Nepal Quake Seen Costing More Than $2 Billion; Few Insured

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Nepal Earthquake: India, China Lead Global Rescue Efforts

The earthquake that struck Nepal caused about $2 billion in economic losses in the country, and only a fraction of the cost will be incurred by insurers, according to Kinetic Analysis Corp.

Damage in India could cost an additional $800 million, according to figures from the disaster-modeling firm that include property damage and long-term business-interruption costs. Less than 1 percent of the losses are covered by insurance, according to Kinetic’s initial data from the main quake. The estimates exclude costs for immediate needs such as food.

“Most developing countries just don’t really have mature insurance industries,” Chuck Watson, Kinetic Analysis’s director of research and development, said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s getting by day-to-day. They’re not really concerned with things like insurance.”

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake Saturday and aftershocks killed more than 3,800 people and displaced millions from their homes. Nepal has a gross domestic product that is smaller than any of the 50 U.S. states. Its 28 million people have the lowest spending power of any Asian country apart from Afghanistan, International Monetary Fund statistics show.

“I suspect this tragic event will perpetuate the fact that preparedness, let alone insurance penetration, was woefully low,” Julian Roberts, lead partner at the strategic risk consulting practice at insurance broker Willis Group Holdings Plc, said in an e-mailed statement. “We’ll probably find that there was more insurance carried by the tourists and expat community out there than all the Nepalese combined.”

Property Coverage

Nepal’s insurers collected premiums of about $277 million in 2013, with most of those funds for life coverage, the Insurance Information Institute said today in a statement, citing data from Axco Insurance Information Services. Spending on property-casualty coverage, such as auto and home insurance, is less than $4 per capita annually in Nepal, compared with almost $2,300 in the U.S., according to the statement.

The costliest earthquake for the industry was in 2011, when more than 15,000 people were killed and insurers had losses of about $40 billion in Japan, a figure that also includes costs tied to a tsunami, the institute said.

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