Johannesburg - Insurance companies have been inundated with claims on Tuesday afternoon from people whose businesses, houses and household contents were damaged during the earthquake that hit many parts of South Africa.
The claims came in immediately after the tremor literally rocked South Africa, but companies are bracing themselves for more.
By midday on Wednesday, Absa had received 200 claims, the majority of them from Orkney, Stilfontein and Klerksdorp.
An Absa spokesman said the type of claims included cracked windows, broken roof tiles, cracked walls, wall tiles falling off, cracked floor tiles and collapsed roofs.
One person was killed and 34 were injured when the earthquake hit shortly after midday on Tuesday, causing scares in mining operations and evacuations in parts of the country. More than 600 houses were damaged in the North West township of Khuma alone.
People in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and the Northern Cape reported feeling the quake, as did people in neighbouring Mozambique and Botswana.
Natasha Kawulesar, of Outsurance, said on Wednesday they had received hundreds of claims soon after the quake.
“We have received a few hundred claims resulting from the earthquake, with the bulk of these claims arising in the Orkney/Klerksdorp/Stilfontein area,” she said.
Insurance companies surveyed on Wednesday were reluctant to quantify the extent of the damage and the amounts they expected to pay out, saying assessments were under way.
Since the quake, at least one insurance company questioned whether South African insurance companies were prepared to deal with natural disasters such as earthquakes.
In 2012, the Catdat Damaging Earthquake Database found that only 7.5 percent of quake-related losses were covered by insurance companies.
The database by Wills Research Network compiles information on global catastrophes.
MUA Insurance Acceptances managing director Christelle Fourie said the Catdat statistics raised important questions over the preparedness of insurance companies to help the rebuilding process.
“The tremor… provides a wake-up call to the insurance industry about the need to prepare effectively for large-scale disasters,” she said.
MUA Insurance Acceptances is dedicated to the high-net-worth insurance market.
OUTsurance’s Kawulesar said:
“At OUTsurance we include cover for earthquake damage as standard in all our policies – buildings, household contents as well as vehicles – and this is on both personal lines as well as commercial lines.”
Standard Bank had received 129 claims by Wednesday.
Standard Bank Insurance Services head Denise Shaw said they had also set in motion a “catastrophe plan” to deal with claims and processes related to this event. “We will always ensure that our clients are at the forefront, making sure that we have contingency plans for any disasters that may arise.”
Shaw and Kawulesar said they were expecting more claims.
Mutual & Federal had not received many claims by Wednesday afternoon, but Nicholas Green, the manager for specialist claims, said he was sure they would get more.
“We have received only 11 claims so far, but no doubt this will increase. The majority of claims are mainly buildings and other structural damage.
“The situation is still fluid, so this can change,” Green said.
Seismologist Denver Birch said there had already been a number of aftershocks since the initial quake. “They have ranged from 1 to 2.5 in magnitude on the local magnitude scale,” he said.
Birch said the scale was a type of Richter scale, with each area in the country having its own scale.
He said all types of ground motions were known to be earthquakes, but were referred to as tremors when the movement is non-damaging to the surface.
“An earthquake is an actual event that causes the tremor. The tremor is what we see on the surface. People in the area (Orkney) should be wary that an earthquake can happen again,” said Birch.
He said the Council for Geosciences could not predict when the next quake would be.
“We know what happened only after it has happened, we are a retrospective science,” he said. – Additional reporting by Mpiletso Motumi