Updated Estimates for 2011 Tohoku Earthquake

Based on official information from March 22, 2011, showing an increasingly dire situation in Japan, we are revising the damage cost and fatality estimates published in an earlier post (The Estimated Costs of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake). We are revising our estimates upward substantially to 12,000 – 14,720 deaths and damage costs of approximately $225 billion.  As we learn more about the actual ratio of reported missing that turn out to be fatalities, these estimates may change.

The death and damage reporting on the Tohoku earthquake is as dynamic as the expanding catastrophe. Early data suggested that this most recent earthquake would be as deadly and costly as the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Recent updates are far more pessimistic. As of March 22 at 11 pm EDT, reports from the Japanese National Police Agency show 9,200 deaths and 13,800 missing from the recent earthquake. Since a significant share of those reported missing could be casualties, our death toll estimates are driven by the official reports of deaths and missing persons and the likelihood the missing will survive. Moreover, updated death toll estimates implicate new cost estimates, because costs are a function of event severity, which is captured by the death toll. Again, as these reports are updated, we will update our estimates.