Tokyo: Japan's government said the cost of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country this month could reach USD 309 billion.

According to a Cabinet Office estimate on Wednesday, the extensive damage to housing, infrastructure and businesses could sum-up between 16 trillion yen and 25 trillion yen (USD 309 billion).

That figure is considerably higher than other estimates. The World Bank on Monday said damage might reach USD 235 billion. Investment bank Goldman Sachs had estimated quake damage of as much as USD 200 billion.

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 production will reach 140,000 cars. The company said it will delay the launch of the Prius hybrid minivan in Japan due to disruptions in parts supplies.

Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said the automaker initially planned to roll out the Prius minivan in April. But the disaster has crippled suppliers and destroyed shops, forcing Toyota to postpone the launch.

The government reportedly plans to inject public money into banks to help support lending as companies rebuild. It may finance that from a fund of 11 trillion yen (USD 135 billion) that is still available under a law on emergency support to banks passed after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

(Agencies)