Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

Japanese quake cost bad, but far from the worst

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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.

The hurricane guessing game

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Unpredictable weather is making life difficult for insurers — see today’s special report: ”Extreme weather batters the insurance industry.”

By Ben Berkowitz

Every year forecasters at Colorado State University take their most educated guess as to how the next year’s hurricane season will unfold. It always draws headlines, but as history shows, that initial “best guess” is usually somewhat far off the mark.

Congratulations to Murray Waas

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WAASMurray Waas is picking up the prestigious Barlett & Steele award today in Phoenix for his special report on health insurers dropping patients after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Reynolds Center is holding a panel discussion with Murray and silver medal winner John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which will be streamed live here.