Insurance industry bosses have been conducting headcounts and safety assessments to ensure their staff members are safe and well following last night’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake near Culverden, New Zealand.
Two fatalities have so far been confirmed, according to Bloomberg,
with New Zealnd Prime Minister John Key unable to rule out further fatalities.
While the Wellington CBD was a no-go zone until building checks had been completed, and communications were still down for many, with mobile phone networks congested and messages being delayed, key industry players were reporting that all their colleagues were so far safe and well.
Gary Young, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of New Zealand (IBANZ) said all members he had heard from so far were okay and were gearing up for the task in hand, which was advising their clients.
“Their task in the immediate future is to advise clients on what they need to do if they have suffered damage. Recording damage that has occurred and minimising further damage must be a priority,” he said.
Mark Reid, general manager of Christchurch-based Abbott Insurance, told Insurance Business
it had been a ‘horrific night’ with tsunami alarm bells ringing and lots of ‘rocking and rolling’ from numerous quake aftershocks.
Reid had a scare earlier this morning when he realised his sister, who lives 100m from the beach, hadn’t received his text message to leave the area due to tsunami warnings.
“We’d heard the tsunami alarm bells weren’t working where she is, they did get them working in the end, but we’d sent her a message around midnight saying ‘you’ve got to get out of there’ and she only got that text at 7am this morning!”
He said the experience had brought back some awful memories for staff.
“We live in a beautiful country and a beautiful city and it’s obviously made from natural disasters over many, many years, a lot longer than us. We’re only here for a short time but we do seem to be copping it at the moment.”
Tim Grafton, CEO of the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) said it was ‘far too early’ to give any sense of the scale of damage or number of insurance claims but he said insurers were on hand to give assistance and help.
“I’ve been down into the Wellington CBD today and buildings haven’t fallen down but they still need to be inspected and there are also risks around structures above ceilings in offices,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“A lot of that stuff is not necessarily done to code and you can see quite a bit of damage come from that kind of stuff as well.”
He said while the scale of the event didn’t seem to be anything like previous events over the last few years, it was too early to speculate on costs.
He was quick to reassure fears that there would be ‘no money left in the kitty’.
“People should have no concerns about that at all.
“There’s a national disaster fund that has started to build up with a few hundred million dollars in it, but over and above that EQC purchase reinsurance cover to the tune of a few billion dollars just for events arising.
“Although it’s too early to assess damage at the moment, I would be very confident that there would be plenty of money in the kitty and obviously as a back-up the government is always there as well.”
He added that while EQC pick up the first residential loss up to NZ$100,000 worth of damage to the house and NZ$20,000 worth of contents before the private insurer steps in, private insurers were the underwriters for all commercial property in New Zealand and it was still ‘too early’ to see what damage had been done there.
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