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RMS releases New Zealand quake insured loss estimate


CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand—Catastrophe modeler Risk Management Solutions Inc. on Wednesday said total insured loss estimates from the earthquake in New Zealand will fall between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion.

The estimate covers damage to property including residential, commercial and industrial, RMS said in a statement, as well as contents and auto losses.

Commercial and industrial losses are estimated to range between $400 million and $1.4 billion, the modeler reported.

The loss estimate does not account for damage to infrastructure or public buildings.

London-based RMS also said losses mainly were driven by damage from shaking to property in Christchurch, New Zealand, where most of the exposure from the quake is concentrated.

The insured loss estimate is on par with other modelers’ estimates from the earthquake that struck in the early morning hours of Sept. 4.

RMS estimated that around two-thirds of the total insured losses will be covered by the New Zealand government’s earthquake commission, which would cover the majority of residential losses. Commercial and industrial losses are uncertain at this time, as many of the buildings affected were individually insured, according to RMS.

“Two key factors that contribute to the uncertainty (of total insured losses) are the possible under-reporting of insured property values by the market and the potential that claims will be assessed ‘generously,’ in particular when older buildings get reconstructed to the latest building code,” said Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS, in a statement.

More than 6,000 buildings have been evaluated in Christchurch, RMS said in its statement, with 3% of those deemed unsafe, 14% requiring further structural assessment and 83% safe for their intended use.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the New Zealand earthquake is the 18th to occur globally with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher during 2010, with the largest being the Feb. 27 quake in Chile, which registered an 8.8 magnitude.

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