Barely four out of every 10 Missouri homeowners carry earthquake insurance, a cause of concern cited Friday as Gov. Matt Blunt heard briefings on the state’s earthquake preparations.
Blunt held a closed-door Cabinet meeting at the State Emergency Management Agency to hear summaries of the earthquake plans at each of the state’s agencies. Of particular concern is what would happen if a major earthquake occurs along the New Madrid Fault, which extends from northeast Arkansas through southeast Missouri into southern Illinois.
The governor asked agencies to update their earthquake plans after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast earlier this year, swamping not only homes but also the emergency relief efforts.
Blunt said he was pleased with the plans made by state agencies. The focus is on providing immediate care to people’s physical and emotional needs, then restoring services and rebuilding homes, businesses and communities, he said.
Yet that could prove difficult for homeowners who don’t pay the extra premium for earthquake coverage and cannot afford to rebuild on their own.
“A significant number are without earthquake insurance, including many Missourians within southeast Missouri,” Blunt said.
Statewide, fewer than 41 percent of home, farm and mobile home insurance policies have earthquake coverage, according to Department of Insurance records. In the city of St. Louis and the 47 counties most prone to earthquake damage, 62 percent have earthquake insurance.
But that percentage appears that high only because 72 percent carry earthquake insurance in heavily populated St. Louis County. Earthquake coverage hovers around 50 percent in New Madrid, Mississippi and Pemiscot counties, where damage is expected to be the heaviest.
Department of Insurance officials said they are trying to draw attention to the need for earthquake insurance.
An earthquake centered near the Missouri Bootheel town of New Madrid produced the largest earthquakes ever in North America between December 1811 and January 1812. U.S. Geological Survey scientists have said there is a 25 percent to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake along the New Madrid Fault in roughly the next 50 years.
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