In news and other articles it often is stated "the cost of something could reach billions" or some such statement. Do these statements mean anything?
It means that once the dust has settled, insurance companies have paid out, homes have been rebuilt, infrastructure redone, people have moved out, businesses rebuilt, and so on, the total cost of all that would reach billions. These "billions" would not have to be spent had the disaster not occurred. That is the point. Some new research on this can be found at: “Do Natural Disasters Affect Growth? A Macro-Model Based Perspective on the Empirical Debate” (2016) written by Lint Barrage & Laura Bakkensen.