Earthquake risk modelling is needed for the planning of post-event emergency operations, for the development of insurance schemes, for the planning of mitigation measures in the existing building stock, and for the development of appropriate building regulations; in all of these applications estimates of casualty numbers are essential. But there are many questions about casualty estimation which are still poorly understood. These questions relate to the causes and nature of the injuries and deaths, and the extent to which they can be quantified. This paper looks at the evidence on these questions from recent studies. It then reviews casualty estimation models available, and finally compares the performance of some casualty models in making rapid post-event casualty estimates in recent earthquakes.