Insurance adjusters still at work assessing the disastrous cyclone damage in Myanmar say they are managing despite undrinkable water, a sketchy power supply, a problematic communications system and monsoon downpours.
That picture comes from independent adjusters with Atlanta-based McLarens Young International, who have been commuting from Singapore to visit catastrophe-hit commercial sites near the former Burmese capital of Yangon sometimes called Rangoon.
MYI is handling assignments from reinsurers based in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States and London, whose risks were placed by the local national insurer.
David Ng, an MYI director in the Singapore office, related by e-mail that Cyclone Nargis, which struck the country last month with 150-mph winds, has left factories with ripped off roofing sheets, shattered glass panels, and vast damage to stock and machinery.
MYI teams have been checking 30 locations scattered over a 43-mile radius of the nation’s largest commercial city, away from the hardest hit delta area, which is inaccessible, wrote Bob Neo, MYI Singapore office managing director.
Mr. Ng advised that reservoirs, artesian wells and other potable water sources have been contaminated by sea water.
Mr. Neo said they drink only bottled water. “Food and drink are things to be careful of as the water system in Myanmar is not safe.”
“The real problems we face are in terms of logistics because public transport is nonexistent. The transportation system is [made up of] antiquated buses [that] are in such poor condition that they should be taken off the roads, and there are still daily queues for petrol, which is about U.S. $1 [per] liter.”
Rental cars are available and MYI also hired local taxis for a contracted period.
The adjusters have been looking at losses at steel, garment, auto and bicycle manufacturers, as well as wholesalers and distributors of consumer products, international school operators and port operators.
The largest loss is estimated at $10 million, and the smallest about $1,000, according to Mr. Ng.
Adjusters are traveling up to two hours from the city center to visit locations, and the drive is a wet one.
“The climate is very humid as we are now in the monsoon period, which means heavy rain from May till August. This will impede and complicate restoration works, and of course make life even more miserable for those without the financial means to undertake repairs,” wrote Mr. Neo.
The national insurer, Mynamar Insurance Company, “has taken a big hit from losses as well, but they are doing their own adjusting,” said Mr. Neo.
He noted that many people in the devastated delta region traveled to work in the industrial areas affected by the cyclone, “and in some factories assessed by us, we were told that they had lost 30 percent of their workforce. As the workers did not return to work, it was assumed that they had perished.”
Mr. Neo added, “Given the Buddhist faith embraced by most people in Myanmar, they are taking the situation stoically.”
The adjusters are working 18-hour days, but they are able to get a good night’s sleep because there is an international hotel where “at least we get to read our mail, take a shower and power interruptions are few, Mr. Neo related.
But communications are a problem “as they are tightly controlled by the government. There are no international roaming services available. Local phones are limited and the net coverage is also limited,” Mr. Neo wrote.
“A local SIM card to operate a mobile phone will set you back U.S. $2,000–just for the SIM card alone! Internet availability can be shut down anytime by the government, [which] controls it,” said Mr. Neo.
But the adjusters do not face government restrictions, “as we are undertaking the claim work under risks which are placed through the local national insurer,” according to Mr. Neo.
He called the working environment safe, explaining “there is no looting and robbery as the military services do keep a tight rein on security matters and the people are generally scared of the military establishment.”
Despite the obstacles, however, Mr. Ng commented that “all things considered, it has been pretty smooth running.”