The devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan is now estimated to be the world’s costliest natural disaster at more than $300 billion.
The figure accounts for damage to roads and infrastructure, but not Japan’s biggest immediate threat: a nuclear crisis – after the earthquake and tsunami crippled a nuclear plant.
Robert Dujarric, director, Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University Japan, speaking at a panel at the Japan Society in New York City said, “If this lasts longer some companies may look at the situation and say why don’t we move some of our headquarter operations from Tokyo to Hong Kong to Singapore to other places.”
Already, concerns over radiation in the food supply prompted the United States and Hong Kong to ban some food imports from the areas surrounding the plant.
And supply concerns prompted Sony, Honda and Toyota to stop work at some factories. Plant closures across Japan have created global supply chain disruptions.
Paul Scalise, Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies says energy constraints remain a risk to the economy.
“If the worst case scenario proves to be correct that the nuclear crisis is resolved rapidly and demand actually does come back with supply not on line because it is either damaged or because the political image of nuclear now is too controversial, then it would imply that both planned and unplanned blackouts and brownouts will ensue.”
While questions remain, it is the extraordinary spirit of the Japanese people that will be crucial, as they deal with the after effects of a disaster that has left 23,000 people dead or missing.
Bottom line: Japan estimates the cost of the damage from the earthquake and tsunami could top $300 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster on record.