Swiss Re has said that based on current information, it provisionally estimates its claims cost from the earthquake in New Zealand on 22 February 2011 to be approximately $800m, net of retrocession and before tax.

The reinsurer also said that the total insured claims for the insurance industry estimated to be between the range of $6bn to $12bn, making this a significant event on a global basis.

The magnitude 6.3 earthquake which struck the Christchurch region of the South Island of New Zealand caused fatalities and widespread damage, particularly in the city of Christchurch.

Swiss Re said that take up rates for earthquake insurance are high in New Zealand. Residential properties are insured by the government run Earthquake Commission scheme up to NZD100,000 per building policy and NZD20,000 per contents policy.

Householders can purchase private insurance above the NZD120,000 cover provided by the Earthquake Commission. Commercial and industrial risks are insured by local and global insurance companies.

Swiss Re CEO Stefan Lippe said that the purpose of insurance and reinsurance is to help individuals and communities cope with the devastating impact of such events.