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Japan quake may cost insurers $35 billion

Last updated on: March 17, 2011 12:50 IST

Japan quake may cost insurers $35 billion

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Yoshita Singh in Boston

Japan's devastating earthquake is expected to cause insured property losses of about $35 billion, a figure that makes the catastrophe one of the costliest ever for the insurance industry.

Insured property losses from the quake with the magnitude of 8.9 in the Richter scale could be in the range of $15 billion and $35 billion dollars (yen 1.2- 2.8 trillion), according to the estimates published by Boston-based catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide on its website.

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Image: World leaders offer sympathy, assistance to quake-ravaged Japan.
Photographs: Reuters
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Japan quake may cost insurers $35 billion

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The insurance cost of the quake is nearly up to the entire worldwide catastrophe loss for the global insurance industry in 2010 and could result in higher prices in the insurance market after years of declines, AIR Worldwide said.

AIR said the figure is a preliminary loss estimate and does not account for the effects of tsunami.

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Image: A Japan Self-Defense Forces officer holds a 4-month-old baby girl who was rescued along with her family members from their home in Ishimaki City.
Photographs: Yomiuri Shimbun/Reuters
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Japan quake may cost insurers $35 billion

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A separate estimate by catastrophe risk modeling firm Eqecat said in a release that last week's earthquake had caused insured losses of between $12-25 billion. Eqecat's estimate includes the earthquake, tsunami and a series of fires.

The discrepancy in figures by two firms is mainly due to the difficulty in assessing the disaster.

"Given the enormity of the 9.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan, it is still in the very early aftermath of the event," senior vice president of research and modeling at AIR Worldwide Jayanta Guin said.

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Image: Flooded streets in Kesennuma city, in Japan's Miyagi Prefecture.
Photographs: Reuters
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Japan quake may cost insurers $35 billion

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According to AIR, earthquake insurance penetration in Japan is relatively low, in the range of 14-17 per cent nationwide.

About 70 per cent of all residential construction is estimated to be of wood and about 25 per cent concrete.

Commercial construction consists of more than 50 per cent concrete and less than 10 per cent wood.

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Image: The cost of rebuilding will worsen its already worryingly high public debt burden.
Photographs: Reuters
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Japan quake may cost insurers $35 billion

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AIR's insured loss estimates reflect insured physical damage to property (residential, commercial/industrial and agriculture) in both structures and their contents, resulting from quake and fire as well as direct business interruption losses.

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Photographs: Reuters
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The loss estimates do not include damage to automobiles, uninsured properties and infrastructure.

The company used a variety of scenarios including the magnitude of tremors in the range of 8.9- 9.1 on Richter scale, a depth of between 15 kilometers and 30 kilometers and a rupture width of 100 kilometers to 150 kilometers.


Image: Economic losses in the regions of Japan that were hit by a massive earthquake will reach around USD 171-183 billion.
Photographs: Reuters
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