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Chile earthquake losses could reach $900m

Natural disaster: A view of the coast where an earthquake-triggered tsunami hit the port city of Coquimbo, Chile last week. Insured losses from the 8.3-magnitude earthquake have been estimated at between $600 million and $900 million

Insured losses from the earthquake that struck Chile last week haven been estimated at up to $900 million.

The 8.3-magnitude earthquake on September 16 was centred about 30 miles off shore from the city of Illapel, and at a depth of 20 miles. At least 12 people died as a result of the earthquake, which also damaged buildings and sparked a widespread tsunami alert and evacuations that affected at least one million people.

Boston-based catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide estimates insured losses will come at between $600 million and $900 million.

The estimated insured losses reflect physical damage to homes and business premises and vehicles, and also direct business interruption losses.

Mehrdad Mahdyiar, senior director of earthquake hazard research at AIR Worldwide, said: “The main shock, which was followed by several strong aftershocks, triggered a tsunami that was recorded in several countries. The tsunami produced waves up to one metre in height as far away as the Hawaiian Islands.”

The largest tsunami wave, which hit the port city of Coquimbo, was almost five metres high.

The AIR Worldwide estimate of insured losses is higher than the $500 million figure put forward by Fitch Ratings last week. In its statement, Fitch also said economic losses from the earthquake were likely to be close to $1 billion.

By comparison, the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that hit central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people and caused insured losses of between $4 billion and $7 billion. Economic losses were estimated to range between $15 billion and $30 billion.