Darfield Quake Sets Records Here and Abroad

September’s magnitude seven earthquake in Canterbury is the largest ever insurance event in New Zealand, and probably ranks as the fifth most costly earthquake globally.

Wednesday 15th December 2010

Disaster insurer EQC reports that the magnitude 7.1 earthquake centred near the Canterbury town of Darfield on the morning of September 4, 2010 has triggered the most costly insurance event in New Zealand’s history. It is also thought to have generated the largest number of insurance claims ever handled by a single insurance organisation in the Southern Hemisphere.

Globally, it is likely to rank as the fifth most costly earthquake event for insurers behind Northridge, California in 1994, central and southern Chile in 2010, Tokyo, Japan in 1923, and Kobe, Japan in 1995.

As at midnight on December 6th, EQC had 160,000 claims in its system, broken down into 195,000 part claims for residential building, contents and land damage. Of these 17,288 claims have been completed totalling $417.6 million. $372 million has gone to building claims and $46 million to contents claims. Land claims settled are in the low thousands, with $12,131 having been paid to date.

About one-third, representing 55,000 claims, have started or finished assessment or been settled.

Prior to this quake, EQC was expecting that its largest event would be a magnitude 7.4 earthquake affecting the Wellington region. Canterbury’s big event was expected to result from a movement on the Alpine Fault, not from the previously unknown fault much closer to Christchurch. The Alpine Fault risk for Canterbury and, indeed, for central New Zealand, remains.

[source: Ru Whenua, Issue 21, December 2010, published by the Earthquake Commission.]

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