Canadian Underwriter

Major commercial buildings, seaside hotels in Ecuador likely of concern to insurance industry following earthquake: RMS

April 19, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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The major commercial buildings and the many seaside hotels in Ecuador are likely to be of concern to the insurance industry following the recent magnitude-7.8 earthquake in the northwestern part of the country, according to the chief research officer at Risk Management Solutions, Inc. (RMS).


On Saturday, April 16, a Mw7.8 earthquake struck Esmeraldas Province in northwestern Ecuador. Photo: @UNGeneva

On Saturday, April 16, a Mw7.8 earthquake struck Esmeraldas Province in northwestern Ecuador, destroying at least 370 buildings and damaging at least 151 buildings. Media reports suggest that more than 400 people have died as of Tuesday morning. According to the Ecuadorian Secretariat for Risk Management, there have been more than 272 fatalities so far, with over 1,577 people injured.

“As well as the fatalities and the impact on people’s lives, there is likely to be significant economic damage in Ecuador,” said Dr. Robert Muir-Wood in a statement on Tuesday. “For the insurance industry, key areas of concern will be around Esmeraldas, which is a major port city just beyond the northern extent of the strong shaking. As well as facilities for international sea trade, there is also the country’s largest oil refinery with a capacity of 110,000 barrels per day.”

Dr. Muir-Wood added that at the southern end of the area of the strongest shaking lies the country’s largest sea port at Manta. A short distance inland from there is Portoviejo – the main commercial centre for this region. “Right across the affected coastal areas, it’s clear that construction standards are often poor,” he said. “Major commercial buildings and the many seaside hotels are also likely to be of concern to the insurance industry. It is fortunate that this has not, so far, triggered an even bigger earthquake along the subduction zone where the oceanic and continental plates are moving towards each other.”

Damage has been reported by the Secretariat to tourist accommodation in the whole central area of Portoviejo, and at least 12 hotels have suffered structural damage. In the city of Manta, four hotels have collapsed and in Bahía de Caráquez, at least 14 hotels have been damaged.

Related: Earthquake kills 235 in Ecuador

According to RMS, ten earthquakes of Mw4.5 or greater have followed the Mw7.8 earthquake, including a Mw5.6 earthquake at on Sunday, April 17, approximately 120 kilometres south southwest of the Mw7.8 epicenter.

The earthquake is the strongest recorded in Ecuador since 1979, when a moment magnitude Mw8.2 earthquake stuck Tumaco Province, destroying over 1,200 buildings, injured over 4,000 people, and killing at least 500.

“According to officials, oil production has been unaffected and the country’s energy industry – a crucial sector of its economy – remains largely intact,” the statement said.

A national state of emergency has been declared and around 10,000 troops and 3,500 police have been deployed in the affected areas to help with rescue efforts. It is thought that many people are still trapped under collapsed buildings.

In Manabi Province, 95% of the electricity supply has been lost due to damage to electricity lines and transformers. Efforts are underway by all electricity companies to restore power, although they are facing difficulties due to earthquake damage on the roads, RMS reported. Drinking water plants in Manabi have reportedly also been damaged by the earthquake.

Several major roads have been closed in Manabi and Bolivar Provinces; two highways in Portoviejo, which experienced MMI VII shaking, have collapsed.