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Quake losses in New Zealand could top $1 billion


CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand—A 6.3 magnitude earthquake Tuesday near Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island left at least 65 people dead and losses that could total more than $1 billion.

Damage from the earthquake is expected to exceed $1 billion, according to catastrophe modeling firm EQECAT Inc.

Areas of Christchurch were still being rebuilt as a result of magnitude 7 earthquake that struck in September.

Last year's quake was estimated to have caused up to $3 billion in insured losses, and several insurers and reinsurers have increased their estimates of claims from the event.

Homeowners' quake claims are covered mainly by New Zealand's government-sponsored Earthquake Commission, which provides up to $100,000 New Zealand ($76,140) in coverage of dwellings and up to $20,000 ($15,300) New Zealand for personal belongings.

While Tuesday's quake was not as strong as the September temblor, it occurred within Christchurch, and ground motions could exceed those recorded last September, EQECAT said in a statement.

“Estimating damages from this event is very challenging. The most fragile buildings were already damaged in September,” EQECAT said in the statement. “Extensive damage from the September event is only partially repaired, and the state of repairs may have left many buildings in a more vulnerable position awaiting repair completion,” the modeler said.

According to a report by Aon Benfield, Tuesday's quake caused widespread power and telecommunications outages, extensive flooding, evacuation of hospitals, closure of Christchurch Airport and damage to Christchurch's 106-year-old Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, among other disruptions.