Earthquakes cause plenty of jitters

Updated: 2014-04-03 11:11

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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With Friday's 5.1-magnitude earthquake still fresh in her memory and worried about an even bigger temblor on the near horizon, Jenney Zhu, a 30-year-old Chinese woman living in Los Angeles, moved her bed from second floor to living room of her single family house with a mountain view.

"My biggest concern is the possibility of a fire triggered by an earthquake," she told China Daily on Wednesday.

Zhu is trying to decide if it's time to buy earthquake insurance for the house, but has failed to make any snap decisions in light of recent developments.

"Most of my Chinese friends living here don't carry earthquake insurance, because it means high deductibles and expensive premiums," she said. "I was also told that a regular homeowner's policy doesn't cover earthquake damage."

Some insurance companies told her earthquake insurance would be a good investment as fees would soar or even stop to be sold if a big destructive temblor happens.

According to the California Earthquake Authority, only 10 percent of homeowners in the state currently carry quake insurance.

About 10 years ago, 40 percent of Californian homeowners had earthquake insurance when the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) was set up after the 1994 Northridge quake.

The big drop in number happened because most companies stopped writing earthquake policies in California after being hit with a reported $12.5 billion in claims, according to a report of NBC.

Reports said CEA offered policies with a 15 percent deductible and only $5,000 worth of personal property coverage, which attracted few people to sign up.

Though CEA has provided more coverage options (the personal property coverage up to $100,000), homeowners still got cold feet as they had to pay higher premiums, it said.

"That's why I don't want to have quake insurance. I don't want to spend a lot of money year after year to protect against the small possibility," Guang Yang, a Chinese resident of southern California, told China Daily on Wednesday.

"They told me I needed to afford at least $30,000 deductibles," he said.

The panic among southern California residents was ratcheted up when a memo on US Geological Survey letterhead was circulated warning that a 7.4 magnitude earthquake was on the way.

But the USGS quickly issued a statementcalling the letter a fake and reminding everyone that the USGS was not in the business of predicting earthquakes.

 Earthquakes cause plenty of jitters

Broken bottles are seen on the floor in an aisle of a CVS pharmacy after a magnitude-5.1 earthquake in Fullerton, California on March 29. Gene Blevins / Reuters

(China Daily USA 04/03/2014 page3)