Japan's government said the cost of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that devastated the northeast could reach $309 billion, making it the world's most expensive natural disaster on record.

The extensive damage to housing, roads, utilities and businesses across seven prefectures has resulted in direct losses of between 16 trillion yen ($198 billion) and 25 trillion yen ($309 billion), according to a Cabinet Office estimate Wednesday.

If the government's projection proves correct, it would top the losses from Hurricane Katrina, said an AP report. That 2005 disaster cost $125 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The AP report said that Japan's estimate does not include the impact of power shortages triggered by damage to a nuclear power plant, so the overall economic impact could be even higher. It also leaves out potential global repercussions.

For example, Toyota Motor Corp., the world's No. 1 automaker, has halted auto production since March 14 because of difficulty securing components, including rubber parts and electronics. By Sunday its lost production will reach 140,000 cars.

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