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RMS warns of left-field disasters

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Modeller RMS says the Asia-Pacific region is highly vulnerable to one-in-100-year catastrophes that may be overlooked in disaster planning.

It has published a list of potential disasters that it says illustrates the dangers.

“These are the kind of events for which nations should also be managing their disaster risk reduction strategies,” Chief Research Officer Robert Muir-Wood says.

The list includes an intense cyclone hitting Perth, a massive volcanic eruption covering Bali and Lombok with thick ash and a large earthquake hitting Wellington and causing liquefaction and permanent land level changes.

Mr Muir-Wood says Wellington is well aware of its earthquake risk, but based on what happened in the city in the 2016 Kaikoura quake, the scenario on the list would be catastrophic.

“We can expect features of the Christchurch experience will be repeated, including many large buildings having to be demolished,” he told

Perth is not usually considered a cyclone risk area, but RMS says it is 10 degrees closer to the equator than Boston, which is in the US Atlantic hurricane belt.

Other catastrophes on the list include a Category 3 typhoon taking an unusual path to make landfall near Bangkok, and “stalled” weather events causing rainfall that overwhelms flood defences in Seoul.

In the Philippines, a Category 4 typhoon that passes south of Luzon could make a near-direct hit on Manila. The city recently dodged several intense typhoons.

In India, one-in-100-year flooding and extensive wind damage could affect the Mumbai area, caused by a Category 4 cyclone stalling close to the city.

Potential earthquake catastrophes include a 6.9-magnitude quake on the Uemachi Fault southeast of Oaska, a shallow 6.7-magnitude event on the Shanchiao Fault next to Taipei and a 7.8 quake in China’s Hebei Province between Baoding and Shijiazhuang.

Mr Muir Wood says climate change is likely to be already affecting some catastrophe classes.

“With respect to this list of events, extreme rainfall-related flooding is likely to have a climate change signature. Warming is already shifting the peak intensity of some tropical cyclones.”