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Hawaii volcano destroys homes as lava poses new threats

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Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has destroyed homes and triggered evacuation orders for two housing estates, as lava flows and toxic fumes erupt from fissures.

The eruption has destroyed 36 structures since May 3, with 17 fissures opening up and more than 116 acres covered by slow-moving lava, state authorities say.

The Commerce and Consumer Affairs Department says home insurance policies vary on damage from lava flows, but if the heat causes fire it may be covered as a fire peril.

“If policyholders are unsure of what coverages they have, they should reach out to their insurance company as soon as possible,” state Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito said.

“We don’t want residents to have lingering questions about their policies and not take advantage of a benefit they may not be aware of.”

US President Donald Trump has declared a disaster, allowing federal assistance to repair public facilities such as roads and parks.

Guy Carpenter says at least 1700 people have been affected by the evacuations of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, but it is too early to estimate the severity of the event.

The US Geological Survey says continued fluctuating and intermittent activity is likely, with new outbreaks or further lava flows at current vents possible.

“The general area of Leilani Estates remains at the greatest risk,” it warned in an update last week. “However, as the eruption progresses, other areas… may also be at risk.”

More violent explosions and danger from projectiles may be triggered by the volcano’s lava lake falling below the water table, the US Geological Survey says.