Comparison of NZ and US seismic safety approaches

New Zealand quake could cost up to $4.5 billion, Market Watch, Sept. 7. Some interesting differences between NZ and US – there most residential structures have earthquake insurance. And their new construction requires consideration of seismic risk, but relatively few older masonry buildings were retrofitted for seismic safety. Sadly, the central business district of ChristChurch lost many of its historic masonry buildings.

New Zealand Earthquake – government-insured residential losses

One of the unique features of the ChristChurch event is that the country acknowledges its high earthquake risk and has mandated insurance for residential structures.  More about this feature follows. Also, it will be interesting to see to what extent  their construction and building inspection standards, zoning, and land use requirements may have contributed to the outcome of no deaths and relatively few injuries.

New Zealand Quake Damage Could Cost $1.4 Billion; WSJ, Sept. 5.

The cost of the damage is still being assessed, with teams working through the central city to check on building soundness. The Earthquake Commission, which covers residential damage on properties insured for natural disasters, said it had received about 2,800 claims for damage to property but was expecting a significant increase in claims over the next couple of days.

Earthquake Commission Chief Executive Ian Simpson said the quake was going to result in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of claims, “but it could be up to a NZ$1 billion” with around 100,000 claims expected to come in over the next three months.

The commission is a government-owned crown entity funded by insurance premiums and pays out the first NZ$100,000 of a claim. The fund currently has around NZ$5.6 billion and is backed by reinsurance from overseas groups and a government guarantee. Mr. Simpson said this will be the single biggest claim on the fund since it was established in the 1940s.