7.4 magnitude earthquake strikes Japan, what's the portfolio impact?

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Sarah Stadler

Update: After our original publication of this post on Tuesday November 21, 2016 the earthquake was changed from a 6.9 magnitude rating to 7.4, and that change is reflected in our headline and post copy.

Tuesday brought a powerful earthquake just off the western coast of Japan. The Telegraph reports that Japan experiences around 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater, and this quake keeps that statistic strong with a 7.4 magnitude rating.  The quake struck near the  2011 site that caused a massive tsunami, setting off the worst nuclear crisis the world had seen since Chernobyl. With a quake as strong as today’s the potential for a devastating tsunami is a relevant and rising concern for citizens and insurers alike.

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 4.01.10 PM.png

Using SpatialKey, we began an immediate analysis of the quake to help insurers visualize where the it struck, and what potential damage it could cause if they compared it to their own insured locations. This footprint shows us the epicenter of the quake and the impact along the coast. The sample data set we used shows nearly 2,000 locations with the potential for moderate or strong impact from the quake. We also see the total for policy exposed limit in the upper right corner, an important metric many of our users reference when assessing portfolio impact. While this view doesn’t take into account the tsunami that could occur, it offers a telling image of what can be expected in way of claims coming in after the storm.

A few other things insurers can consider as the event plays out:

  • Property damage is uncertain so far, but the areas experiencing greatest ground shaking are coastal cities between Iwaki and Sendai, as well as inland to Fukushima.
  • The greatest concern is the potential for tsunami damage, especially given the severity of the 2011 tsunami and the resulting damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. While tsunami warnings are in effect for Japan, which is expecting a wave of 3-10 feet, there is no tsunami danger for the US West Coast.
  • Coastal residents in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures are on alert, and evacuation to higher ground is recommended until after the tsunami has passed.

We’re here to help. Reach out today to assess your own portfolio against Japan’s earthquake to empower your claims response.