Although UWI’s Seismic Research Unit has long warned of a major earthquake, the 6.9 magnitude tremor on August 21st still caught most Trinbagonians by surprise. While some took advantage of the very generous pricing of Ariapita Avenue’s ‘Aftershock’ parties, many policyholders remain in shock at the damage caused to their buildings and the level of the self-insured deductible that they are required to bear.
The Seismic Research Unit warns that this quake was not ‘the Big One’. They also advised the public to expect aftershocks lasting up to two years.
In 2016, the Seismic Research Unit started a ten year project to study the nature of the sub-surface in built-up areas such as Port-of-Spain and determine how they might be impacted by soil liquefaction.
Soil liquefaction refers to the ground failure or loss of strength that causes otherwise solid soil to behave temporarily as a viscous liquid. In other words, during certain earthquakes, some water saturated soil will act temporarily like quick sand.
Buildings can be constructed to withstand the effects of liquefaction and the work of the Seismic Research Unit will help determine the building standards required for areas that might be affected by this phenomenon.
Soil liquefaction from an earthquake in 2011 played a major role in the extensive loss of life and property damage in Christchurch, New Zealand. The earthquake caused extensive damage to 30% of water and sewerage lines, 13% of freshwater wells and 70% of commercial buildings. Parts of the worst affected areas of the city remained condoned off for 2.5 years, and there was a 38% reduction in the number of businesses.
However, the city of Christchurch was well prepared for an earthquake of this magnitude. High insurance penetration and business interruption insurance played a vital part in restoring business activity to near their previous levels within 18 months. However, property underinsurance was a major issue for many businesses and even those companies with business interruption policies had coverage limits of 12 months.
In recent issues, we have highlighted those aspects of insurance that will affect catastrophe claims such as self-insured deductibles, underinsurance and the 72 hours clause. We hope our clients conduct a thorough review of their current insurance needs and assess the plans they intend to put in place to recover from a New Zealand type aftershock