Earthquake In Japan Complicates Insurance

The unprecedented nature of Friday's earthquake in Japan, plus the damage from the subsequent tsunami and fires, makes estimating insured losses especially challenging, senior executives at two top catastrophe modeling firms said on Saturday.

There are about $24 billion in insured properties in the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) band closest to the coast in the four most affected prefectures, Jayanta Guin of Air Worldwide, a disaster-modeling firm, said in an interview. In the four prefectures most affected by the quake's shaking, there is some $300 billion in insured property.

But that does not equate in any way to a similar loss value. Guin said it will be days or even weeks until an accurate estimate can be made of what was lost, how it was lost, and what it will take to fix.

One problem, Guin said, is that the quake's damage was hard to model because its intensity and location were unexpected.

Eqecat, another risk modeler, said the earthquake was at least eight times stronger than any it had modeled in that particular part of Japan for the next 30 years.

Air Worldwide, Eqecat and RMS are the three major risk-modeling firms that help insurance companies predict where and how they will suffer losses and how severe they will be.