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Asia faces ‘towering inferno’ risk

Asia’s growing number of super-high-rise (SHR) towers presents a challenge for underwriters, Shanghai-based Gen Re Property Casualty Country Manager Tom Qiu warns.

The industry must not underestimate the fire threat and potential for outsize claims as the risk of “towering infernos” grows. The recent Grenfell Tower blaze in London is a reminder not only of the human cost but the possibly staggering insurance losses, he says.

“From an insurance perspective… the impressive growth of SHR buildings in both number and height should be viewed in the context of their potential for producing large-scale loss of life and significant property-casualty claims,” Mr Qiu said.

“SHR buildings pose a great challenge to the insurance industry… while events might be of low frequency, they can have very high loss severity.

“The height of these buildings also increases fire exposure, which requires the underwriters to reasonably and realistically evaluate the effectiveness of fire prevention and suppression measures, as well as accessibility for firefighting.”

About 84% of SHR towers completed last year are in Asia, with more than 90% of those in China.

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