Are Hawaii homeowners covered for volcano damage?


HONOLULU Patricia Deter moved from Oregon to Hawaii to be closer to her two daughters, but the Kilauea volcano burned down her home only a month after she bought it.

Now Deter and her family, along others who have recently lost homes to the lava-spewing mountain, are on an urgent quest for answers about insurance, desperate to learn whether their coverage will offer any help after molten rock wiped out most of what they owned.

The eruption has destroyed about two dozen homes in the Leilani Estates subdivision on the Big Island. On Monday, another fissure spewing lava and toxic gas opened up, and a crack in the earth that emerged a day earlier was sending molten rock crawling toward the ocean, officials said. Nearly 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago, and officials warn it may soon blow its top with a massive steam eruption that would shoot boulders and ash miles into the sky.


Because the community sits in a zone deemed by the U.S. Geological Survey to have a high risk of lava, few insurance companies will issues policies there.

But homeowners are not without options. One possibility is the Hawaii Property Insurance Association, a nonprofit collection of insurance companies created by state lawmakers in 1991 to provide basic property insurance for people who are unable to buy coverage in the private market.

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A lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes A lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes and emits fumes as it consumes the surrounding jungle on Sunday, May 13, 2018.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenA lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes A lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes and emits fumes as it consumes the surrounding jungle on Sunday, May 13, 2018.   Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenFumes from the lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood Fumes from the lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood have killed surrounding vegetation in this photo taken Sunday, May 13, 2018.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenThe Puna Geothermal Venture power plant sits in the The Puna Geothermal Venture power plant sits in the jungle near the lava flows running through the Leilani Estates neighborhood. Area residents worried the geothermal plant would be damaged by the lava, setting ablaze the liquid used to transfer heat energy to the generators.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenA lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes A lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes and emits fumes as it consumes the surrounding jungle on Sunday, May 13, 2018.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenAn island of vegetation sits amidst an old lava flow An island of vegetation sits amidst an old lava flow near Pahoa, Hawaii. This area is known for suffering frequent lava flows that destroy homes.   Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenBacked by the towering cloud of smoke and steam, the Backed by the towering cloud of smoke and steam, the Pahoa Chiropractic Center proudly tells residents that the doctor has no plans to leave despite the mandatory evacuation of a nearby neighborhood.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenEvacuees from the Pahoa-area lava flow pass through Evacuees from the Pahoa-area lava flow pass through a police checkpoint to return to their homes, which are near the ongoing lava flow.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenKapua Freitas, 8, left, and Audri Agonias, 7, carry Kapua Freitas, 8, left, and Audri Agonias, 7, carry a tote filled with cold drinks to people waiting at the lava evacuation center in Pahoa, Hawaii, on Sunday, May 13, 2018.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenA lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes A lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood smokes and emits fumes as it consumes the surrounding jungle on Sunday, May 13, 2018.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenFumes from the lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood Fumes from the lava flow near the Leilani Estates neighborhood have killed surrounding vegetation in this photo taken Sunday, May 13, 2018.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenAn old road that once ran to a now-destroyed neighborhood An old road that once ran to a now-destroyed neighborhood near Pahoa, Hawaii is slowly disappearing into the jungle after it was partially covered with lava and abandoned in a decades-ago lava flow.  Trevor Hughes, USA TODAYFullscreenThis is an aerial view of the 1000-foot long fissure This is an aerial view of the 1000-foot long fissure that erupted on Kilauea’s east rift zone near Pahoa, Hawaii on May 13, 2018. Ground cracks and seismicity indicate a continued easterly migration. Eighteen fissures have been reported in and around Leilani Estates. Kilauea is the most active volcano on the Hawaii’s Big Island and some experts predict the volcanic activity could cause a massive explosion.  Bruce Omori, Paradise Helicopters, via EPA-EFEFullscreenGases rise from lava fissure 17 after it erupted early Gases rise from lava fissure 17 after it erupted early on May 13 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. The new fissure spurred Hawaii officials to call for more evacuations on Sunday as residents braced for an expected eruption from the Kilauea volcano.  Caleb Jones, APFullscreenPolice block a road near lava fissure 17 after it erupted Police block a road near lava fissure 17 after it erupted early on May 13, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii.  Caleb Jones, APFullscreenLava flows at a new fissure in the aftermath of eruptions Lava flows at a new fissure in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island as a local resident walks nearby after taking photos on May 12, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano’s Halemaumau crater Òhas raised the potential for explosive eruptionsÓ at the volcano. Authorities have confirmed the fissure is the 16th to open.  MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenA handout photo made available by the Hawaii County A handout photo made available by the Hawaii County Fire Department shows and aerial view of fissure 16 ,bottom, located about 1.3 km northeast of fissure 15, top left, near Leilani Estate, Hawaii on May 12, 2018. Sixteen fissures have been reported in and around Leilani Estate. Kilauea is the most active volcano on the Hawaii’s Big Island and some experts predict the volcanic activity could cause a massive explosion in the coming weeks.  HAWAII COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT/EPA-EFEFullscreenA local resident talks on his phone as a lava fissure A local resident talks on his phone as a lava fissure erupts in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 12, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenLava flows at a lava fissure in the aftermath of eruptions Lava flows at a lava fissure in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 12, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenA lava fissure erupts in the aftermath of eruptions A lava fissure erupts in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 12, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenHannique Ruder, a 65-year-old resident living in the Hannique Ruder, a 65-year-old resident living in the Leilani Estates subdivision, stands on a mound of hardened lava near Pahoa, Hawaii on May 11, 2018.  Jae C. Hong, APFullscreenSmoke and volcanic gases rise as lava cools in the Smoke and volcanic gases rise as lava cools in the Leilani Estates neighborhood, Friday.  Mario Tama, Getty ImagesFullscreenCenter lane lines are partially visible along the lava-covered Center lane lines are partially visible along the lava-covered road in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. Kilauea has destroyed more than 35 structures since it began releasing lava from vents about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the summit crater.  Jae C. Hong, APFullscreenFissures continue to vent an extraordinary amount of Fissures continue to vent an extraordinary amount of toxic gases, creating hazardous breathing conditions in the immediate and downwind areas, Pahoa, Hawaii. There has been no volcanic activity within the Leilani Estates subdivision for the past day, although geologists warn that it is not over.  Bruce Omori/Paradise Helicopters, EPA-EFEFullscreenA statue of the Virgin Mary is silhouetted as smoke A statue of the Virgin Mary is silhouetted as smoke rises from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, May 10, 2018.  MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenA geologist inspects a crack that widened considerably A geologist inspects a crack that widened considerably in the past day, on Old Kalapana Road, Hawaii, May 10, 2018.   UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY VIA EPA-EFEFullscreenSteam and gas rise in Leilani Estates in the aftermath Steam and gas rise in Leilani Estates in the aftermath of the Kilauea volcano eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 10, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenAn aerial view shows smoke and burned areas as eruptions An aerial view shows smoke and burned areas as eruptions continued overnight within the Leilani Estates subdivision, in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 9, 2018. Although activity this morning has waned, geologists warn that it is not over. Fissures also continue to vent an extraordinary amount of toxic gases, creating hazardous breathing conditions in the immediate and downwind areas.  BRUCE OMORI/PARADISE HELICOPTERS/EPA-EFEFullscreenAn aerial view shows  a flow covered a street before An aerial view shows a flow covered a street before coming to a stop, and ground cracks litter the area as eruptions continued overnight within the Leilani Estates subdivision, in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 9, 2018. Although activity this morning has waned, geologists warn that it is not over. Fissures also continue to vent an extraordinary amount of toxic gases, creating hazardous breathing conditions in the immediate and downwind areas.   BRUCE OMORI/PARADISE HELICOPTERS/EPA-EFEFullscreenAn aerial view shows smoke and burned areas as eruptions An aerial view shows smoke and burned areas as eruptions continued overnight within the Leilani Estates subdivision, in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 9, 2018. Although activity this morning has waned, geologists warn that it is not over. Fissures also continue to vent an extraordinary amount of toxic gases, creating hazardous breathing conditions in the immediate and downwind areas.  BRUCE OMORI/PARADISE HELICOPTERS/EPA-EFEFullscreenPark visitors gather as volcanic gases rise from the Park visitors gather as volcanic gases rise from the Halemaumau crater within the Kilauea volcano summit caldera at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on May 9, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur dioxide gas into communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in Leilani Estates.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenAn ash plume rises from the Halemaumau crater within An ash plume rises from the Halemaumau crater within the Kilauea volcano summit caldera at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on May 9, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenThis image obtained May 9, 2018, released by the US This image obtained May 9, 2018, released by the US Geological Survey shows a lava flow moving on Makamae Street in Leilani Estates at 09:32 am local time, on May 6, 2018 in Leilani Estates, Hawaii.The Kilauea Volcano, the most active in Hawaii, was highly unstable on May 6, 2018, as lava spouted into the air and fissures emitted deadly gases — hazards that have forced thousands of people to evacuate.  US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY/AFP/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenSteam and sulfur rises from cracks in Moku Street at Steam and sulfur rises from cracks in Moku Street at the head of a driveway in Leilani Estates on May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Police have gone door-to-door to evacuate residents near two new vents emitting dangerous volcanic gases in Hawaii. The vents emerged near the spots where lava has been pouring into streets and backyards for the past week.  HOLLYN JOHNSON/HAWAII TRIBUNE-HERALD via APFullscreenA fissure erupts near the intersection of Kahukai Street A fissure erupts near the intersection of Kahukai Street and Leilani Avenue in Leilani Estates on May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Hawaii County officials issued mandatory evacuation orders for two neighborhoods, Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, on Thursday when the lava first emerged. There are 14 lava-producing fissures in Leilani Estates, after two new ones formed Tuesday.  HOLLYN JOHNSON/HAWAII TRIBUNE-HERALD via APFullscreenRoy Piper, visiting from Canterbury, Conn., takes pictures Roy Piper, visiting from Canterbury, Conn., takes pictures as volcanic gases are emitted into the air on May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Hawaii County officials have issued a cellphone alert warning residents of a subdivision to immediately evacuate after two new lava fissures opened in a neighboring community.  JAE C. HONG/APFullscreenVolunteer Jasmine Kupihea, facing camera, hugs a local Volunteer Jasmine Kupihea, facing camera, hugs a local resident affected by the lava flow at a makeshift donation center on May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. Hawaii County officials have issued a cellphone alert warning residents of a subdivision to immediately evacuate after two new lava fissures opened in a neighboring community.   JAE C. HONG/APFullscreenVolunteers and evacuees hold in hands while praying Volunteers and evacuees hold in hands while praying before serving dinner at a makeshift donation center on May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii.   JAE C. HONG/APFullscreenEvacuee Jon Warner, left, walks through rain with son Evacuee Jon Warner, left, walks through rain with son Ethan, right, and daughter Iris after picking up some basic necessities at a makeshift donation center on May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. “We’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Warner. “I don’t know if I ever want to go back.”  JAE C. HONG/APFullscreenIn this Tuesday, May 8, 2018 photo from the U.S. Geological In this Tuesday, May 8, 2018 photo from the U.S. Geological Survey, a geologist examines a part of the inactive fissure 10 in Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa on the island of Hawaii.   U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY via APFullscreenU.S. Army National Guard First Lt. Aaron Hew Len takes U.S. Army National Guard First Lt. Aaron Hew Len takes measurements for sulfur dioxide gas at volcanic fissures in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 8, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur dioxide gas into communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate. Leilani Estates residents have been allowed to return during the day to inspect property and remove belongings. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in Leilani Estates.  MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenU.S. Army National Guard First Lt. Aaron Hew Len takes U.S. Army National Guard First Lt. Aaron Hew Len takes measurements for dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide gas in front of a lava flow and downed power lines on a residential street in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 8, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.  MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenA resident waits to see if it is possible to cross A resident waits to see if it is possible to cross a street with fissures in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 8, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenA lava flow sits on the lawn of a home in the Leilani A lava flow sits on the lawn of a home in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii on May 8, 2018. Scientists confirm that volcanic activity has paused at all 12 fissures that opened up in a Hawaii community and oozed lava that burned 35 structures. Officials warn that hazardous fumes continue to be released from the cracks in the ground.  CALEB JONES/APFullscreenStaff sergeant  Jake Kiyohiro of the Hawaii National Staff sergeant Jake Kiyohiro of the Hawaii National Guard takes gas readings on May 7, 2018 at Leilani Estates in Pahoa, Hawaii island. Lava has now destroyed 30 structures, most of which are homes, as residents gathered belongings and animals with an uncertainty that they would return to a home at all.  JAMM AQUINO/THE STAR-ADVERTISER VIA APFullscreenIn this Saturday, May 5, 2018, photo, Edwin Montoya, In this Saturday, May 5, 2018, photo, Edwin Montoya, 76, feeds his dogs at a campsite near his home near Pahoa, Hawaii. Just a couple of miles up the hill, lava has been gushing from the ground and destroying dozens of homes as new eruptions and earthquakes have rattled the region. His property is within the mandatory evacuation zone, but Montoya, who was finally able to get back to the farm on Saturday afternoon, plans to stay there unless he is forced to leave. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia) ORG XMIT: HIMG101  Marco Garcia, APFullscreen Lava from a robust fissure eruption on Kilauea's east Lava from a robust fissure eruption on Kilauea’s east rift zone consumes a home, then threatens another, near Pahoa, Hawaii, May 6, 2018. The total number of homes lost within the Leilani Estates subdivision thus far is 21, and geologists from the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory do not expect the eruption to cease any time soon. A local state of emergency has been declared after Mount Kilauea erupted near residential areas, forcing mandatory evacuation of about 1,700 citizens from their nearby homes. The crater’s floor collapsed on May 1 and is continuing to erode its walls and generating huge explosions of ashes. Several earthquakes have been recorded in the area where the volcanic eruptions continue, including a 6.9 magnitue earthquake which struck the area on May 4.  BRUCE OMORI / PARADISE HELICOPTERS/EPA-EFEFullscreenThis ground cracking extends across Highway 130 in This ground cracking extends across Highway 130 in Puna, Hawaii, May 7, 2018.   U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY VIA GETTY IMAGES FullscreenVisitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park take in Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park take in a view of Kilauea volcano’s crater on Hawaii’s Big Island south of Hilo, May 7, 2018 where lava flowed out of until the May 4 earthquake when it sank back in.   FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenSteam rises from a fissure in the Leilani Estates subdivision, Steam rises from a fissure in the Leilani Estates subdivision, near Pahoa, Hawaii, May 7, 2018.   UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY VIA EPA-EFEFullscreenStacy Welch photographs lava located about 250-feet Stacy Welch photographs lava located about 250-feet from her home, which remains standing, in the Leilani Estates neighborhood May 7, 2018.   MARIO TAMA/GETTY IMAGESFullscreenThis May 6, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological This May 6, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the lava lake at the summit of Kilauea near Pahoa, Hawaii. Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano has destroyed homes and forced the evacuations of more than a thousand people.  U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY VIA APFullscreenVolcanic activity continues on Kilauea's east rift Volcanic activity continues on Kilauea’s east rift zone, as a robust fissure eruption in Leilani Estates sends a massive flow into the subdivision, consuming all in its path, near Pahoa, Hawaii, May 6, 2018.  BRUCE OMORI / PARADISE HELICOPTERS/EPA-EFEFullscreen