A daytime 7.6-magnitude earthquake striking Wellington could kill hundreds, destroy 600 buildings, leave nearly 30,000 people stranded, and cost nearly $20 billion to clean up, according to new computer modelling.
Wellington sits on an active fault and the new software, RiskScape, developed by GNS Science and NIWA, has calculated the devastating worst-case scenario, Fairfax reports.
GNS social scientist Kim Wright said RiskScape was not just about worst-case scenarios, but about understanding all kinds of risks and how to reduce their impact.
RiskScape modelling was not yet fully fine-tuned - especially with casualty forecasts, she said.
The software will soon provide accurate projections for other disasters such as landslides, wind storms and tsunamis, to help emergency response agencies prepare for the real thing.
Estimates have put the cost of rebuilding Christchurch following last year's magnitude-6.3 quake, which killed 185 people, as high as $30b.