Canadian Underwriter

Windsor tremor shows quake risk exists anywhere in Canada

April 23, 2018   by Greg Meckbach

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Earthquakes do hit southern Ontario from time to time but the area hit last week has a low risk of experiencing property damage arising from earthquakes, an Insurance Bureau of Canada official told Canadian Underwriter.

Natural Resources Canada reported that shortly after 9:00 p.m. local time April 19, an earthquake about 4.1 on the Richter scale hit an area centred just east of Ahmerstburg, on the Detroit River south of Windsor.

That area is “considered a low risk zone” for earthquake, IBC vice president of federal affairs Craig Stewart said Friday in an interview. “Damage has never been recorded in that area” since European settlement began more than 200 years ago.

Thursday’s earthquake was roughly 200 kilometres northeast of the epicentre of a magnitude 5 quake that struck Jan. 31, 1986 east of Cleveland, Ohio. That earthquake was felt throughout southern Ontario. It also caused broken windows, cracked plaster and a toppled chimney in Ohio, the state’s natural resources department reported.

Earthquakes in this region can often be felt 500 kilometres from the epicentre, the United States Geological Survey stated in an article about the April 19, 2018 earthquake. In eastern North America, the bedrock is “laced with faults that were active in earlier geologic eras, and few of these faults are known to have been active in the current geologic era,” USGS stated.

Stewart was asked whether property policies with earthquake exclusions in the London and Windsor area should be considered an issue.

“You never say never, but it is considered relatively low risk compared to other areas in the country” such as the west coast, eastern Ontario and Quebec, suggested Stewart.

A greater concern in southern Ontario is flood risk, he suggested. “It’s always important to assess your own comfort level in terms of risk and purchase insurance accordingly,” Stewart said. “Brokers should be encouraging their clients to be aware of whatever risk they face.”

Fewer than 5% of Quebec homeowners have earthquake coverage on their properties, Swiss Re warned earlier. Eastern Canada was hit in 1663 by a 7.0-magnitude quake, Swiss Re noted.