The horror and distress caused by the attacks—particularly the collapse of the twin towers, New York City’s most visible landmark—was overwhelming. The original World Trade Center (WTC) was a complex of seven buildings in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City. It opened on April 4, 1973, and at the time, the original 1 WTC (the North Tower) were the tallest buildings in the world.

Biggest ever losses

The Economic effects of the September 11 attacks resulted in approximately $40 billion in insurance losses, making it one of the largest insured events ever. However, the total cost is anywhere between $36 - $223 Billion dollars, making the disaster one of the deadliest and most expensive in living history.

After the attacks global markets entered panic selling mode and huge losses followed. The NYSE and the Nasdaq remained closed until Sept. 17, the longest shutdown since 1933. On the first day of NYSE trading after the attacks, the market fell to a 7.1% decline, setting a record at the time for the biggest loss in exchange history for one trading day. That Friday, saw the biggest losses in NYSE history, the Dow Jones was down almost 1,370 points, representing a loss of over 14%.

Natural disasters

The U.S. has sustained 371 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2023). The total cost of these 371 events exceeds $2.615 trillion. (NCEI).

As the world marks 22 years since the 9/11 attacks took thousands of lives in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, Finance Monthly looks at the costs of some of the disasters which are estimated to have an economic cost of at least 1 billion United States dollars.

The top 10 list of disasters by cost

  1. Chernobyl disaster (1986) - $854 Billion
  2. 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami + Fukushima nuclear disaster (2011) - $468 Billion
  3. Great Hanshin earthquake (1995) - $378 Billion
  4. 2008 Sichuan earthquake (2008) - $201 Billion
  5. Hurricane Katrina (2005) - $187 Billion
  6. Hurricane Harvey (2017) - $149 Billion
  7. Hurricane Ian (2022) - $122 Billion
  8. 2020 South Asian floods (2020) - $119 Billion
  9. Hurricane Maria (2017) - $109 Billion
  10. 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake (2023) - $84 Billion


Once a disaster strikes, the economic impact is felt long after the event. A direct consequence of 9/11, was the US invasion of Afghanistan and operations in Pakistan at a cost of over $2.313 trillion (Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs), Investment in security and intelligence, and the ongoing war against terrorism are all expenses resulting from the attacks on September 11, 2001, making it possibly the most expensive disaster ever.