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Few earthquake-insured Missouri homes amid rising costs

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The percentage of homes with earthquake insurance in Missouri’s highest-risk areas is at a historic low amid rising costs for coverage.

Only 12.7% of homes in the New Madrid fault area were insured as of last year, according to a survey of insurers released by Missouri’s Department of Commerce and Insurance last week.

In 2000, more than 60% of homes in the area were insured for earthquakes.

The New Madrid fault stretches from northeastern Arkansas to southeastern Missouri. Earthquakes from the fault line can occur in cities including St. Louis and Little Rock, Ark., according to Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources.

The Missouri Geological Survey has said that mild earthquakes in southeastern Missouri are not unusual and that at least four quakes measuring 4.5-magnitude or greater have occurred in New Madrid Seismic Zone since 1974. Hundreds of weaker quakes between magnitude 2.0 and 3.9 have been recorded there since 2000.

Missouri’s insurance department blamed the drop in insured homes partly on rising prices and high deductibles.

Earthquake insurance costs are up 760% compared with 2000, and many insurers offer only coverage with deductibles at 25% of the value of insured homes.

Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance Director Chlora Lindley-Myers said in a statement that the cost of earthquake insurance was “prohibitively expensive” and that some insurers had pulled out of the area completely.

“We are very concerned about the state of earthquake insurance in Missouri,” Lindley-Myers said.

She said the drop in earthquake insurance spanned several states and would take a multistate effort to solve. Missouri is hosting a conference on the issue in September.

The scope of the problem in surrounding states is unclear.

A spokeswoman for Arkansas’ insurance agency said the state didn’t collect data on earthquake insurance by ZIP code. Jennifer Bruce said the department was considering expanding its collection of data.

Kentucky also doesn’t require insurance companies to provide data on the number of earthquake-insured homes by county.

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