Sound and Fury

Lancy Chan was taken by surprise at the fury Typhoon Mangkhut unveiled as it smashed into Hong Kong. Although she has 13 years of experience as a claims assessor at Allianz and is used to seeing the destruction Mother Nature periodically hurls at her hometown, there was something new about Typhoon Mangkhut.

“You always expect the worst, but Mangkhut is as bad as I have ever seen,” says Lancy, looking out the window of her office window of the City Plaza complex. Although the Allianz offices are sheltered on the mainland side of Hong Kong Island at Taikoo Shing, the damage is apparent.

Debris and broken, uprooted trees lay outside. With gale force winds of 173 kilometers (107 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 223 kph (138 mph), Mangkhut was stronger than Hurricane Florence that hit North Carolina recently. The world’s strongest storm this year, Mangkhut blazed a trail of destruction across Southeast Asia. Hong Kong was directly in its path and bore the full brunt of Mangkhut before it passed over to the mainland.

The fierce, howling winds buffeted the island city tearing off roofs, toppling cranes from skyscrapers, blowing out windows from high-rise buildings and flooding low lying areas. Streets turned to rivers and fish were seen swimming in the city.

Fortunately, there were no fatalities in Hong Kong, which is well prepared for such extremes, but at least 86 casualties elsewhere have been attributed to the storm. In China, 2.45 million people were evacuated in the Guangdong province before the storm made landfall.

Officially, Mangkhut is the strongest typhoon to strike Hong Kong since Ellen in 1983, but it followed on from last year’s Typhoon Hato. “It is rare that Hong Kong experiences such violent storms two years running,” says Chan. “Hato was bad, but Mangkhut was terrifying. What is disturbing is that two such intense storms came so close together. Normally you expect one about every 10 years.”

Chan and her small three-person team have been working frantically since the storm abated. As the Head of Short Tail Claims at Allianz for Hong Kong and Greater China, she oversees the work of her team as they assess the damage to property, engineering structures and marine vessels made in the aftermath. The claims started coming in even as the Mangkhut was still roaring and they have continued rolling in ever since.

“It is a stressful time,” says Chan. “People are distraught. They want to get their lives back on track as soon as possible. Companies want to resume their business, even if their offices are no longer usable.

“Our job is to help them, and we have to work quickly, but accurately. There are procedures to follow, so we politely explain to people about the documents they need and the steps they have to follow.”

Chan praises the efforts of her small team.

Few in number, they work long hours even against a background when some of them have personally experienced damage from the storm and are concerned with getting their personal life sorted.

“It’s not easy, but they are devoted to the work and you are rewarded when a client breaks into a smile and the relief shows on their face after you have assisted them,” she adds. “You can only hope that storms of such intensity will not become a pattern,” she finishes.

The Allianz Group is one of the world's leading insurers and asset managers with more than 86 million retail and corporate customers. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing over 650 billion euros on behalf of its insurance customers while our asset managers Allianz Global Investors and PIMCO manage an additional 1.4 trillion euros of third-party assets. Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business processes and investment decisions, we hold a leading position in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2016, over 140,000 employees in more than 70 countries achieved total revenues of 122 billion euros and an operating profit of 11 billion euros for the group. 

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Wendy Koh
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