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Insured losses in East Coast earthquake less than $100M: EQECAT

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MINERAL, Va.—Insured losses from Tuesday's earthquake, which rattled the East Coast, should total less than $100 million, catastrophe modeler EQECAT Inc. said.

The magnitude 5.8 quake, which was centered near the central Virginia town of Mineral, was felt from Toronto to Atlanta.

Oakland, Calif.-based EQECAT said that significant earthquakes in Virginia are “very rare but not unexpected.” The largest recorded quake in the Central Virginia fault zone was a magnitude 4.8 temblor that occurred in 1875, while the largest recorded earthquake in Virginia was a 5.9 quake that struck Giles County in the western part of the state in 1897, according to the catastrophe modeler.

EQECAT said a magnitude 5.8 quake in the central and eastern United States "does not produce an expectation of widespread catastrophic damages. Most modern structures are expected to withstand the modest ground motions produced by this event."

EQECAT noted, however, that an increment of one magnitude—from approximately magnitude 6 to magnitude 7—“would increase the loss estimate to close to $2 billion” in the region.

In Washington, the quake damaged some federal buildings and landmarks, including the Washington Monument and Washington National Cathedral. Local schools also sustained damage, leading authorities to close schools in Washington; Prince George's, Md.; and several counties in north central Virginia.

The quake occurred as the East Coast began preparing for the first hurricane of the season, Hurricane Irene, which forecasters said could strike the East Coast this weekend.