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Hawaii Governor: Homeowners Whose Property Bursts Into Flames Before Lava Hits Should be Covered

In this photo taken from video an unidentified man gets close to a lava flow advancing down a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa on the island of Hawaii on May 7, 2018. (Scott Wiggers/Apau Hawaii Tours via AP)

The governor of Hawaii sent out the message this morning that the islands are open for business and travelers even as lava spewing through “unpredictable” Kīlauea volcano fissures chews through a neighborhood south of Hilo on the island of Hawaii.

Gov. David Ige also told CNN that homeowners in the lava’s spectacular path could still be covered by their insurance if their property bursts into flames before the magma consumes it.

“On the insurance front, we do know that if they have homeowners insurance with fire coverage, typically, they will get some return. When the lava approaches a home, the home will burst into flames before it is actually consumed by the lava. And so, as long as they have the typical homeowners insurance with fire protection, they will get some return,” he said. “You know, we will continue to monitor that and make sure that the residents who are paying for insurance will get their coverage.”

The U.S. Geological Survey, which has Kiauea on an orange warning alert, said late Monday that two new fissures had opened in the ground during the day near Leilani Estates. “Cracks on Highway 130 widened from 7 cm to 8 cm over the course of the day and additional cracks were found just west of the highway on trend with the eruptive fissures,” USGS said.

Ige said that “everyone has been through volcanic eruption before and they know it is temporary,” adding “the geologists expect that the eruption will continue” and “there are signs that it is not over yet.”

“I just wanted to start by saying Leilani Estates is a small portion of Hawaii Island. So, the rest of the island and both airports operating at full capacity,” he said. “But we are asking any visitors and residents to stay out of Leilani Garden Estates. You know, the volcanic activity is unpredictable. And clearly, it is a tough time for the residents there, some of which people losing their possessions.”

The governor acknowledged that “the lava flow is unpredictable; it’s hard to determine which direction it will go on.”

“You know, it starts and stops, you know, on a whim. I think that that’s the uncertainty that all of the residents are faced with,” he said.

FEMA is on the ground in Hawaii, and Ige stressed that it’s “still high anxiety for those living directly in the area.”

“Hawaii is open for business. If you had vacation plans to come to Hawaii, we would encourage you to continue to come. Certainly, we don’t and will discourage you from trying to get into the Leilani Estates subdivision because it is for residents only. The emergency responders and those government officials who are helping the community cope with this tragedy,” he said.

“I think one thing that is very different in this event is that the fissures have opened in the middle of the subdivision. You know, typically, an eruption occurs miles away from any residents and the toxic gasses has a lot of time to escape. These fissures are in the middle of the subdivision. And, you know, the sulfur dioxide and other gasses clearly at the event is very harmful and dangerous,” the governor added. “But it does dissipate quite quickly once it gets into the air. We have been encouraging residents to stay away from the vent and, you know, watch and monitor activity, and really be prepared to evacuate if something should change or the status of the volcano should change.”