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Japan disaster: Insured losses at $12-25 bn

Destruction is seen in Kamaishi on March 16, 2011, following the devasting earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 16, 2011
Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami last week have resulted in insured losses of between $12 and $25 billion, risk assessment firm EQECAT said Wednesday.

EQECAT said the epic magnitude-9.0 quake that struck Japan Friday and the ensuing massive tsunami were piling up "significant losses" to the insurance industry.

"EQECAT estimates total insured losses at $12-$25 billion," the company said.

"This loss estimate encompasses the effects of earthquake shaking, ensuing tsunami and fires, and losses to automobiles, marine, life, and personal accident insurance lines," it said.

But the loss estimates did not include the developing nuclear crisis as Japan raced to prevent a catastrophe at quake-stricken nuclear plants.

"These estimates do not account for losses associated with the current nuclear emergency at power plants in the region," the firm said.

EQECAT estimated that between $2.0 to $4.0 billion of the insured losses was expected to be borne by the government's Japan Earthquake Reinsurance Pool, reducing the total losses to non-life property insurers in Japan.

The most powerful earthquake to hit Japan since record keeping began triggered a huge tsunami that swept away cars, structures and ships along the eastern coast, and impacted coastal towns across the Pacific as far away as Northern California.

The prefectures where the ground motion was the strongest, measuring a magnitude of 6.0 on the Japan Meteorological Agency's seismic intensity scale, are Chiba (northern) and Ibaraki, Tochigi, Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate (southern), the risk modeling firm noted.

But prefectures with significant observations of 5.0-magnitude shaking include Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Niigata, Yamagata, and Aita.

"This distinction is important -- the most severe damage to property and assets will be in the areas with JMA 6, but the areas of JMA 5 are expected to have scattered pockets of damage throughout the region," the firm said.

The largest share of the insured loss will be covered by the property insurance market, which provides earthquake insurance to individuals and businesses in Japan, it said.

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