Japanese quake cost bad, but far from the worst

April 5, 2011

By Ben Berkowitz

INSURANCE/JAPANThe March 11 Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan was a tragic disaster of historic proportions — but from a purely financial standpoint it pales in comparison. (For a special report on insurers, click here.)

Estimates are still coming in but it seems likely the quake will end up ranking as the costliest of the last generation in insured losses, surpassing even the Northridge earthquake that struck southern California in 1994. (The one that collapsed a number of major freeways, by way of reference).

But looking back historically, it is dwarfed by two temblors in particular — the New Madrid quake of 1812 and the San Francisco quake of 1906. If those events happened today, they would each cause nearly $100 billion in *insured* losses, to say nothing of their total economic impact.

Great Tohoku comes in fourth on that all-time list, assuming the higher end of AIR Worldwide’s loss estimate.

Read the special report “Japan quake reveals cracks in insurance system” in multimedia PDF format here.

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