The Northridge, CA, Earthquake 20 Years After: Facts, Figures and Perspectives

The Northridge, CA, Earthquake 20 Years After: Facts, Figures and Perspectives

January 10, 2014
Northridge at 20

Damaged portion of the Golden State Freeway at Gavin Canyon, January 17, 1994.

Source: FEMA/Wikipedia
Affecting much of southern California, the Northridge, California, earthquake of January 17, 1994 was the costliest earthquake in U.S. history in terms of insured losses (both actual and adjusted for inflation). The event, which triggered the fastest ground acceleration rates (intensity of shaking) ever recorded up to that time, caused 57 fatalities, approximately 8,800 injuries, and more than $20 billion dollars in property losses (2013 USD) to buildings and public infrastructure.
 
As 20 years have passed since the Northridge earthquake, numerous advances have changed how we deal with seismic activity in developed areas. Advances in civil and structural engineering, as well as emergency preparedness and rescue efforts have helped to mitigate the human toll of earthquakes. More effective communications, and widespread use of digital media and the Internet in particular, have fostered greater awareness of earthquake safety, and have changed how people share and consume information before, during and after catastrophes. Yet, in spite of these advances (or maybe because of them), fewer than 10 percent of California property and business owners today opt to purchase earthquake insurance coverage.
 
On the anniversary of the Northridge earthquake, the Insurance Information Institute offers resources, facts and statistics on earthquakes and insurance.

THE TEN MOST COSTLY WORLD EARTHQUAKES AND TSUNAMIS BY INSURED LOSSES, 1980-2013 (1)

($ millions)

        Losses when occurred   
Rank Date Event Location Overall Insured (2) Fatalities
1 Mar. 11, 2011 Earthquake, tsunami Japan: Honshu, Aomori, Tohoku; Miyagi,
Sendai; Fukushima, Mito; Ibaraki; Tochigi,
Utsunomiya. Includes tsunami.
$210,000 $40,000 15,880
2 Jan. 17, 1994 Earthquake USA: CA: Northridge, Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Ventura, Orange 44,000 15,300 61
3 Feb. 22, 2011 Earthquake New Zealand: South Island, Canterbury, Christchurch, Lyttelton 20,000 14,600 185
4 Feb. 27, 2010 Earthquake, tsunami Chile: Bio Bio, Concepcion, Talcahuano, Coronel, Dichato, Chillan; Del Maule, Talca, Curico. Includes tsunami. 30,000 8,000 520
5 Sep. 4, 2010 Earthquake New Zealand: Canterbury, Christchurch, Avonside, Omihi, Timaru, Kaiapoi, Lyttelton 7,400 5,900 NA 
6 Jan. 17, 1995 Earthquake Japan: Prefecture Hyogo, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto 100,000 3,000 6,430
7 Jun. 13, 2011 Earthquake New Zealand: Canterbury, Christchurch, Lyttelton 2,500 2,000 1
8 May 5 and May 29, 2012 Earthquake (series) Italy: Emilia-Romagna, San Felice del Panaro, Cavezzo, Rovereto di Novi, Carpi, Concordia, Bologna 16,000 1,600 18
9 Dec. 26, 2004 Earthquake, tsunami Sri Lanka; Indonesia; Thailand; India; Bangladesh; Myanmar; Maldives; Malaysia. Includes tsunami. 10,000 1,000 220,000
10 Oct. 17, 1989 Earthquake USA: CA: Loma Prieta, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Silicon Valley 10,000 960 68

(1) As of February 2014.
(2) Based on property losses including, if applicable, agricultural, offshore, marine, aviation and National Flood Insurance Program losses in the United States and may differ from data shown elsewhere.

NA=Data not available.

Source: © 2014 Munich Re, Geo Risks Research, NatCatSERVICE.

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