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10. Newcastle, Australia (1989)

Insured losses: $670 million
Overall losses: $1.2 billion
Fatalities: 13

Described by the Australian Government as "one of Australia's most serious natural disasters," the Newcastle earthquake of 1989 shook the area around Sydney with 5.6 magnitude tremors that left 13 people dead and 160 injured. The government notes that insured losses were estimated to be approximately $1 billion, although the Insurance Information Institute places the number at $670 million.

It was estimated that the effects could be felt in over 77,000 square miles of territory, with damage to buildings occurring within nearly 3,500 square miles. An estimated 35,000 homes, 147 schools and 3,000 commercial buildings were damaged, while as m any as 400 people required temporary housing.

Although the earthquake was relatively weak on the Richter scale, it occurred in a populated area with many of the buildings dating back to the 1860s, without proper reinforcements for stress caused by ground movement. The Australian government also says that the weakness of the area's buildings was exacerbated by their proximity to the sea, which corroded steel and the adhesive material in brick walls.

Photo: Gordon Finn | newcastle.nsw.gov.au