Volcanic eruption could cost large cities up to USD 30 billion, new Swiss Re model says

23 March 2017, Zurich

  • New volcano model says over 1 billion people live within 150 km of an active volcano
  • Top 10 exposed cities include Tokyo, Naples, Manila, Managua and Jakarta
  • Losses from volcanic eruptions are still largely uninsured, posing a significant protection gap
  • Emerging markets such as Nicaragua or Ecuador would suffer severe economic disruption in case of eruption
  • New Swiss Re volcano model enables design of new coverage against severe loss potential of volcanic eruptions

Swiss Re has developed the world's first global volcano model, which assesses risk in the case of over
500 active volcanoes. The model enables insurers to quantify volcanic risks and to calculate expected losses from volcanic eruptions. With one in seven of the world's largest urban areas located within a 150 km radius of an active volcano and some of the largest cities at risk of total economic losses of as much as USD 30 billion, quantifying volcanic risks can help cities and countries prepare for the worst.

A missing global model in the insurance market has been the greatest obstacle for addressing the risk posed by volcanic hazards. In some countries the volcanic threat constitutes a substantial part of the insurable risks, and the ability to assess and price such risks with precision is crucial.

Jayne Plunkett, CEO Reinsurance Asia at Swiss Re, said: "As global urbanisation gathers pace, the protection gap for volcanic hazards widens. But economic disruption and large-scale economic losses for people and businesses locally are only one part of the picture. For example, in the case of any large scale eruption, supply chains would be affected all around the world, causing both economic and insured losses."

Currently, only Iceland has compulsory volcano insurance; elsewhere, losses from volcanic eruptions are largely uninsured, creating a huge protection gap. The precise quantification of volcanic risks will enable adequate insurance coverage.

Martin Bertogg, Head Catastrophic Perils at Swiss Re, said: "The new model allows us to calculate premiums for this important risk for individuals, businesses and countries. It's now up to us in the insurance industry to use this new opportunity, together with all partners, to design trustworthy and affordable coverage to help make the world more resilient when disaster strikes."

Swiss Re
The Swiss Re Group is a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer. Dealing direct and working through brokers, its global client base consists of insurance companies, mid-to-large-sized corporations and public sector clients. From standard products to tailor-made coverage across all lines of business, Swiss Re deploys its capital strength, expertise and innovation power to enable the risk-taking upon which enterprise and progress in society depend. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1863, Swiss Re serves clients through a network of around 70 offices globally and is rated "AA-" by Standard & Poor's, "Aa3" by Moody's and "A+" by A.M. Best. Registered shares in the Swiss Re Group holding company, Swiss Re Ltd, are listed in accordance with the International Reporting Standard on the SIX Swiss Exchange and trade under the symbol SREN. For more information about Swiss Re Group, please visit: www.swissre.com or follow us on Twitter @SwissRe.