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Insured losses from Beirut blast seen around $3 billion: Sources

Beirut blast

(Reuters) Insured losses from the Beirut port warehouse explosion are likely to total around $3 billion, similar to those from an explosion at the Chinese port of Tianjin in 2015, industry sources and analysts say.

The blast on Tuesday, the biggest in Beirut's history, killed 154 people, destroyed a swathe of the city and sent seismic shockwaves around the region.

Officials have said the blast might have caused economic losses of $15 billion.

Much of these would not have been insured.

However, Swiss Re estimated the insured losses for explosions at a warehouse in Tianjin, which killed at least 116 people, at between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion.

“Drawing a comparison with Tianjin, you will see significant insured losses,” said Ghislain Le Cam, director, analytics at A.M. Best Co. Inc.

An insurance source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, estimated the insured losses for the Beirut explosion at around $2 billion to $3 billion.

That includes claims by the port itself for property damage and business interruption, which could total in the “low hundreds of millions” of dollars.

Munich Re said this week the explosion would likely result in big claims, but it could not yet give an estimate.

Axa and Allianz, two major international insurers operating in Lebanon, also said it was too soon to give any figures.

Losses were high in Tianjin partly because of the value of thousands of imported cars stored at the port.

In Beirut, the blast destroyed Lebanon's only large grain silo. Lebanon, a nation of an estimated 6 million people, imports almost all of its wheat.

While losses related to goods stored at the Beirut port would likely be lower than in Tianjin, they would still be substantial, a second source said, requesting anonymity.

But the Beirut explosion also destroyed residential and commercial property, including restaurants and hotels, which sources said would likely make up the bulk of the insurance claims.