Atlas Magazine April 2011

A disaster of unprecedented scale

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accidents that hit the Fukushima power plant on March 11, 2011 and subsequent days will be engraved on the minds of insurers.

An earthquake of unparalleled scale. Regarded as one of the most violent ever occurred worldwide, this earthquake, of magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, has paradoxically caused little damages and few casualties when normally an earthquake of such a magnitude is poised to trigger considerable damages.

A tsunami of awesome force. More than 10-meter-high waves surged at an incredible speed over hundreds of miles of over-populated coastline, sweeping away everything in their path. The human and material losses are very high. It is the tsunami and not the earthquake that caused most of the damages.

A tremendous nuclear catastrophe. The series of incidents at the Fukushima nuclear plant reactors ranks this nuclear catastrophe as the second most important disaster of its kind after Chernobyl.

A series of exceptional disasters. This is the first time such a nightmare scenario occurs and that the three events — most feared by insurers — happen simultaneously. Moreover, it is in Japan the country where the rate of insurance penetration and insurance density are the highest in the world that these events took place.

A heavy bill. With so far 310 billion USD of damages, excluding nuclear ones, which will be largely supported by the state, the Japanese catastrophe has become the most expensive event in history. In 2005, Katrina deemed as the most devastating disaster until March 11, had caused 125 billion USD of damages.

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