TÜRKIYE: Insured losses after both earthquakes will exceed USD 1 billion, Verisk says

23 February 2023 — Daniela GHETU

According to Extreme Event Solutions at Verisk (formerly AIR Worldwide), economic losses for the February 6, 2023, earthquakes in Türkiye will likely exceed USD 20 billion, and industry insured losses will likely exceed USD 1 billion. These estimates are based on impacts of both M7+ earthquakes that occurred on that day. Results from Verisk indicate the initial shock is the driver of most of the insured losses.

“These devasting earthquakes caused not only extensive physical damage, but also a tragic loss of life in Türkiye and Syria,” said Bill Churney, president of extreme event solutions, Verisk.

Churney continued, “The sizable difference between insured and economic losses—the protection gap—represents the cost of catastrophes to society, much of which is ultimately borne by governments. Increasing insurance penetration can ease much of the burden. There are solutions available that can enhance global resilience efforts including, emergency management, hazard mitigation, public disaster financing, risk pooling, and other government-led risk- and loss-mitigation initiatives.”

Türkiye’s Rate of Earthquake Occurrence and Steps Taken to Protect Against Them

The February 6, 2023, M7.8 earthquake resulted from strike-slip faulting at shallow depth. The location of the earthquake places it within the vicinity of a triple-junction between the Anatolia, Africa, and Arabian tectonic plates. According to the USGS’s finite fault model slip occurred as far north as the cities of Malatya and Adiyaman in Türkiye and as far south as the Türkiye/Syria border. Nine hours after the first earthquake of M7.8 a second earthquake of M7.5 occurred 100 km to the north on a separate but connecting fault.

Türkiye has a high rate of earthquake occurrence. Since 1900, approximately 12 earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 and greater and one event of magnitude 6.0 and greater have occurred here each year. Notable historical events in Türkiye include the 1939 magnitude 7.9 İzmit earthquake, the 1999 magnitude 7.5 İzmit earthquake, and the 1999 magnitude 7.2 Düzce earthquake.

Türkiye has a long history of building codes and regulations that have been developed to ensure the safety and performance of buildings against earthquakes. Current codes reflect the latest advancements in building technology and seismic design practices almost in parallel with changes in the US seismic code.

Despite these efforts, the seismic performance of buildings in Türkiye during earthquakes has been mixed. Buildings complied with codes have performed relatively well, while many others have experienced significant damage and collapse during earthquakes.

Although many advancements have been made in the past 20 years, history repeats in terms of damage between the 1999 Izmit earthquake and the recent one: widespread pancake-type collapse for both old and new buildings particularly for middle- and high-rise buildings. The reason is this large magnitude earthquake generated strong shaking in 1–2 seconds and posted strong demand to mid– and high–rise buildings. In areas like the city of Hatay, which is close to the rupturing fault, the shaking demand was so severe and beyond buildings were designed. However, in many cases, one or several buildings collapsed but neighboring buildings survived such as the one observed at Sanliurfa about 50 miles away from the fault. These poorly performing buildings are likely not designed to have sufficient ductility or built in a way with structural deficits such as soft story and a common Asmolen construction in Türkiye, which is found vulnerable to shaking.

Verisk’s modeled insured loss estimates do include:

  • Damage from ground shaking induced insured physical damage to onshore property (residential, commercial/industrial, mutual), both structures and their contents.
  • Loss of use coverages such as business interruption

Verisk’s modeled insured loss estimates do not include:

  • Losses due to fire-following, liquefaction, or sprinkler leakage
  • Loss adjustment expenses
  • Losses to uninsured properties
  • Losses to infrastructure
  • Losses from extra-contractual obligations
  • Losses from hazardous waste cleanup, vandalism, or civil commotion, whether directly or indirectly caused by the event
  • Losses outside of the model domain, including those in Syria
  • Losses to civil engineering (railway) risks, marine cargo and marine hull risks, aviation risks
  • Risks, Transit warehouse risks, movable all risk, and personal accident risks
  • Other non-modeled losses