India’s total economic losses from all disasters, including natural and man-made events exceeded USD 6.2 billion (or 6.8 per cent of worldwide losses) in 2015, down from USD 13.4 billion (11.9 per cent of global losses) in 2014, said a study by Swiss Re.

The global reinsurer said that the total insured losses in India were USD 1 billion in 2015, up from USD 971 million the year before. The severe flash floods in Chennai in November were the largest disaster, causing estimated economic losses of USD 2.2 billion. Insured losses were estimated at around USD 755 million, making these floods the second costliest insurance event in India and a large part of the losses originated from commercial lines. The event highlighted the vulnerability of rapidly growing urban areas to flash floods caused by heavy rains, said the company in its report.

Vulnerability to earthquake hazards

In India, uninsured losses from all catastrophes and man-made disasters were 84 per cent of the total losses in 2015, down from 93 per cent in 2014. Although the protection gap was smaller last year than in 2014, it was still high relative to global and regional standards. The global protection gap was around 60 per cent in 2015, down from 68 per cent in 2014. In Asia, the gap was at 81 per cent in 2015, down from 90 per cent in 2014.

Many cities in northern India are located close to the seismic gap in the Himalayan range. A seismic gap is an area where plate movement has already produced land deformation but – as of yet – not released the associated energy in the form of an earthquake. The likelihood of earthquakes in seismic gaps is very high, and the expected magnitude of such an earthquake in the Himalayas is Mw 8.0–8.5. Many Indian cities, including the national capital, Delhi, are close to the gap and are vulnerable to earthquakes. According to the 2011 census data, around 90 per cent of Delhi’s building stock falls in the category of unreinforced masonry, which is not earthquake-resistant.

social-fb COMMENT NOW