Christchurch February 2011 Earthquake
2/22/2011 9:15:00 PM
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Update 12/22/2011 9:15:00 PM
First Posting 2/22/2011 4:45:00 PM  
Posting Date: 2/22/2011 9:15:00 PM
AIR Worldwide estimates that industry insured losses from the moment magnitude 6.1 earthquake that struck New Zealand’s South Island near Christchurch on February 22st (February 21st UTC) will be between NZD $5 billion ($3.5 billion USD) and NZD $11.5 billion ($8 billion USD).

It is still in the very early aftermath of yesterday’s earthquake that struck near Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island, and damage assessments are only just beginning after the initial focus on search and rescue. Damage in this city of about 375,000 people is widespread, and aftershocks, of which there have been several, remain a concern. Note that while seismological agencies are reporting a local (Richter) magnitude of 6.3 for this earthquake, this translates to a moment magnitude (Mw) of 6.1 according to calculations made by the USGS.

The government of New Zealand has declared a national state of emergency in order to facilitate the coordination of local, national and international rescue and recovery efforts. Hardest hit was the city's central business district, which remains largely shut down. Rows of masonry buildings crumbled and those buildings still standing will have to be carefully assessed for structural integrity. The historic Christchurch Cathedral suffered major damage, including the toppling of its spire.

Two of the most notable collapses were of the multi-story Pyne Gould Guinness and CTV (Canterbury Television) office buildings. Although several people have been rescued alive, many others who are believed to have been in the buildings at the time of the earthquake are still unaccounted for. Rescue efforts have been slowed by the perilous conditions of the buildings and continuing aftershocks. Employees also had to be rescued by helicopter from the roof of the 21-story Forsyth Barr House when the internal stairwell collapsed. The official death toll now stands at 75, but that number is expected to rise.

Christchurch Airport reopened for domestic flights on Wednesday morning; international flights were expected to resume in the afternoon. Half the city was still without power on Wednesday morning and many residents are still without drinking water. The city’s infrastructure has also been hard hit, with many roads and bridges damaged as a result of liquefaction. In the city’s suburbs and surrounding towns, ground failure manifested in the form of liquefaction, lateral spreading and landslides.

The country's finance minister said on Tuesday that the Earthquake Commission (EQC) has sufficient funds, along with reinsurance, to cover expected claims. The EQC is liable for the first NZD $1.5 billion of losses to residential properties. It has a further $2.5 billion in reinsurance cover. If claims exceed $4 billion, the Commission pays from its reserves. Those reserves, which were reduced by about $1.5 billion as a result of last September’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake, are estimated to be about $4 billion today.

AIR Worldwide estimates that industry insured losses from the Mw 6.1 earthquake that struck New Zealand’s South Island near Christchurch on February 22 will be between NZD $5 billion ($3.5 billion USD) and NZD $11.5 billion ($8 billion USD).

AIR's insured loss estimates reflect:

  • Insured physical damage to property (residential, commercial/ industrial), both structures and their contents
  • >
  • Demand surge—the increase in costs of materials, services, and labor due to increased demand following a catastrophic event.
  • Direct business interruption losses

The loss estimates do not reflect:

  • Losses to uninsured properties
  • Losses to land
  • Losses to automobiles
  • Losses to infrastructure
  • Indirect business interruption losses
  • Loss adjustment expenses
  • Losses from non-modeled perils, including fire-following and landslide

    The AIR earthquake team continues to collect and analyze available data on this event. Updates will be provided as warranted.

Christchurch February 2011 Earthquake
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