Christchurch quake third most expensive disaster ever - insurer

By Jarrod Booker, Sara Greig of BusinessDesk

File photo / Brett Phibbs
File photo / Brett Phibbs

Christchurch's February 22 earthquake was the third most expensive insured natural catastrophe in history, according to Swiss Re.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake triggered economic losses of US$15 billion and insurance claims of US$12 billion, said Lucia Bevere, global insurer's senior catastrophe data analyst.

While the Christchurch quake was dwarfed by Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March last year, claims arising from the New Zealand disaster generated a disproportionate ratio of claims because of the nation's high penetration of earthquake insurance, especially for residential properties, Bevere said.

Some 80 per cent of the economic losses from the Christchurch quake were covered compared to just 17 per cent for Japan, she said.

Japan's March 11, 2011, earthquake and the tsunamis it generated made the event the most expensive earthquake on record, with economic losses of US$210 billion and an estimated cost to the insurance industry of US$35 billion.

Swiss Re's head of flood perils Jens Mehlhorn said floods in Thailand last year were the second-most expensive insured catastrophe, with economic losses of US$30 billion.

Insurance claims from the floods are estimated at US$12 billion, the highest ever recorded for a river water flood event.

Last year saw the highest economic losses from natural catastrophes and manmade disasters in history, at US$370 billion, in turn generating losses for the insurance industry. The highest insured earthquake losses were recorded in 2011, at US$49 billion.

Lloyd's, the world's specialist insurance market, this week said it incurred total net claims of 12.9 billion pounds in 2011, including 4.6 billion pounds of catastrophe claims, making it the largest catastrophe claims year on record for the 324-year-old insurance market. Its pretax loss was 516 million pounds.

- NZ Herald

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