NEW YORK — The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile last week may be the most expensive for insurers since 1994, and the second-costliest for the industry in history.

The quake, the world’s fifth-strongest in a century, leveled buildings, knocked out power lines and damaged 1.5 million homes, officials said. The damage may cost insurers $2 billion to $8 billion, according to estimates from catastrophe-modelers AIR Worldwide and Eqecat Inc.

If the quake prompts $8 billion in claims, the high end of Eqecat’s estimate, it will follow only the Northridge, Calif., earthquake in 1994, which cost insurers $22 billion, according to inflation-adjusted data compiled by Munich Re and the Insurance Information Institute.

“There is earthquake coverage available in Chile at a level that’s comparable to the United States and other wealthy countries,” said Kate Stillwell of Oakland, Calif.-based Eqecat. Because of the frequency of the temblors in Chile, “they know earthquakes are a risk.”


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