Catastrophe risk modeler RMS is keeping an eye on Hurricane Matthew, one of the most powerful North Atlantic hurricanes in recent history.

Matthew, which briefly reached Category 5 strength on Oct. 1, made landfall in Haiti today as a Category 4. The hurricane set off watches and warnings for Jamaica, Haiti, Turks and Caicos, Cuba and the Bahamas. All except Cuba are members of the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, which provides insurance coverage to member countries on a parametric modeled loss basis, RMS said.

RMS shared its view of each island’s vulnerabilities to the storm:

  • Cuba: Despite being older on average, RMS said the building stock in Cuba performs well overall due to the high presence of concrete construction. Insurance penetration is expected to be low.
  • Haiti: Haiti’s steep terrain leaves much of the country exposed to flooding and landslides, making rainfall the chief concern. While a new building code was instituted in 2012, following the devastating earthquake of 2010, it is unclear whether it is being enforced. RMS said its research indicates that buildings in Haiti are expected to perform worse than most Caribbean islands, although this varies by individual construction type. Insurance penetration is expected to be low.
  • Jamaica: Building codes in Jamaica have not had a major revision since 1908, but RMS research shows that single-family homes are built by local engineers to high standards and reinforced concrete construction is prevalent across the island. RMS noted that, in 2012, engineers on the island adopted many practices outlined in recent International Building Code standards.
  • Bahamas: The Bahamas has better construction quality than most of the Caribbean, RMS said. The predominant construction material is reinforced concrete; however, roofs in the Bahamas often feature asphalt shingles, which can increase the vulnerability of the entire structure. RMS said that while insurance penetration in the Bahamas is higher than other Caribbean islands, insured property still accounts for less than 40 percent of all homes.

Source: RMS