Loss adjusters Ashworth Mairs Group is flying a team to India this week to assess the damage from the sub-continent's most powerful earthquake in 50 years.

More than 15,000 people in the western state of Gujarat are estimated to have died, and thousands more have been left homeless following the devastating natural disaster.

Ashworth Mairs Group international partner Paul Greenaway, who is leading the team, said it will focus on commercial property damage in the worst hit city of Bhuj.

He said more than 50% of commercial property in Bhuj has been destroyed, including part of its airport.

“The earthquake, measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, has inflicted a swathe of damage almost the size of England – stretching from Bombay to the Pakistan border.”

Most of the commercial property is believed to be insured by New India Insurance and reinsured with Swiss Re.

The Swiss reinsurer admitted its international risks arm was examining the damage. But it stressed it was “not a large event” in commercial insurance terms, as most of the property destroyed was residential.

It also said it was too soon to place a figure on the total loss.