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Tianjin explosion insured losses may surpass $1.5 billion

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Insured losses from the series of explosions at a chemical warehouse in the port of Tianjin, China, late last week could exceed $1.5 billion, according to a report by Fitch Ratings Ltd. in Hong Kong.

Fitch said Tuesday that a high insurance penetration rate in the Tianjin area could mean that the blasts could result in one of the largest catastrophe claims for the Chinese insurance sector in recent years.

The rating agency said claims could undermine the financial results of some regional insurers but that it was too early to say what effect the incident would have on the credit strength of the Chinese insurance market overall.

More than 8,000 new vehicles are reported to have been destroyed by the blasts, which caused a fire that affected a large area of the port, and at least 50 people are believed to have died.

The majority of claims likely will impact auto, cargo, liability and property insurance, with substantial life and medical claims also likely, Fitch said.

A portion of claims from the blast likely will be reinsured both in local and international markets, Fitch said.

The overall risk cession ratios of major nonlife insurers underwriting in the Tianjin region range from about 10% to 15%, Fitch estimates.