News Non-Life11 Oct 2019

Japan to face more CAT losses with upcoming Typhoon Hagibis


Japan is expected to encounter yet another category 5 Super Typhoon named Hagabis on Saturday morning (12 October). The track of Hagabis is very similar to that of Typhoon Faxai which just made landfall last month and is estimated to incur estimated insured losses of $5bn to $9bn, according to RMS.

Hagibis has been thrust into the spotlight over the past few days after it underwent one of the most rapid intensifications ever observed, whereby its maximum sustained wind speeds intensified from 60 to 160 miles per hour in just 24 hours on 6-7 October.

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has described the storm as ‘violent’ which is its highest tropical cyclone classification.

According to an update from Guy Carpenter, the forecast calls for Hagabis to weaken to a category 3 typhoon by landfall. However, a category 3 typhoon’s direct impact to Tokyo would be historic in nature, said RMS modeller (event response) James Cosgrove.

Since 1950, only four typhoons have tracked at category 3 strength within 100 miles of Tokyo. In fact, Typhoon Faxai made landfall as a strong category while Typhoon Jebi from 2018 made landfall further south in Osaka as a borderline category 2 typhoon.

The latest forecasts predict that Hagibis will make landfall in and around the Tokyo Bay area and the surrounding prefectures but there remains some uncertainty in the forecasts around its precise landfall position and intensity, said Mr Cosgrove.

Hagabis poses a significant risk to life and property across south-eastern Japan. The storm’s broad wind field is expected to bring damaging winds to a large swath of central and eastern Honshu regardless of its final landfall intensity and location,

The JMA have also warned that Typhoon Hagibis could bring significant amounts of rain to a few areas of Japan over this weekend that could lead to localised flooding.

According to various media reports, the typhoon will also disrupt major sporting events scheduled to take place over the weekend; the Rugby World Cup’s matches and the final practice and qualifying for the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix.

At the same time, there has been numerous travel cancellations nationwide with All Nippon Airlines and Japan Airlines cancelling flights. The Japanese railways have also warned of delays, while stating the train services may well be cancelled altogether.

Japan – the land of rising Nat CATs

An average of four typhoons per year have made landfall on one of Japan's four islands since 1951 and another five come within 500 km of the coastline with approximately half the population of Japan and about 75% of total insurable assets on a floodplain and at risk, according to an AIR Worldwide publication on the 2018 Nat CATs in the country.

In fact, 2018 was termed as Japan’s year of catastrophes with five Nat CATs incurring over JPY1,584bn ($14bn) in insured losses, according to the General Insurance Association of Japan estimates.

Among them, Typhoon Jebi was the costliest with claims arising from the typhoon still being filed with over $8bn reported in insured claims. This has established Jebi as Japan’s largest typhoon-related insurance and reinsurance loss on record.

Following such mounting claims and reported losses, Japanese insurers were said to be under pressure to rebuild their reserves after deploying a sizeable portion in 2018, revealed a report released by AM Best in May 2019.

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