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White Island eruption injuries covered

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Australian tourists who were visiting White Island when it erupted will be covered by New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), while some travel insurers have also confirmed coverage.

The ACC provides accident insurance for everyone in New Zealand, including international visitors, and has confirmed that it will pay for victims’ medical care.

“If you’re in hospital, the staff there will submit an ACC claim for you,” it says on its website. “They’ll provide you with the treatment you need and we’ll contact you shortly.”

A spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au today that usually repatriation costs back to Australia are covered by travel insurance. When they are not, they are looked at on a case-by-case basis. Typically travel insurance would be required for other expenses.

Many of those caught up in the tragedy were visiting New Zealand aboard the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, which had sailed from Sydney.

NIB Travel Insurance spokesman Phil Sylvester says the firm has one customer who was badly burned in the White Island eruption on Monday afternoon.

“The passenger has been repatriated to hospital in Australia at the cruise line’s expense,” he said. “If that had not occurred we would have handled the case, and all other things being equal, would have covered those costs.”

NIB’s travel policies have no specific exclusion related to hiking within volcanoes, but there are exclusions around a traveller not putting themselves at needless risk or acting in contravention of authorised warnings and advice.

“These were not in place at White Island at the time, and in the absence of any authoritative advice of an imminent eruption there’s no reason for an insurer to assume ‘needless risk’ was taken,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Sadly, this is just one of those ‘unforeseen circumstances’ that occasionally befall travellers. It is a very sad and tragic occurrence.”

Allianz has also confirmed that the event will be covered under its travel insurance policy.

New Zealand legislation prevents anyone with ACC cover from suing for damages arising directly or indirectly from their injuries.

“The bar applies to proceedings in New Zealand, but it is likely that proceedings brought elsewhere would be struck out as the court generally applies the law applicable to the jurisdiction in which the injury occurred,” the ACC spokesman said.

Almost 50 people were visiting White Island when it erupted. New Zealand Police have confirmed the number of deaths has risen to eight, including six Australians.

Some 23 people are being treated at hospitals in New Zealand, and some Australians are being repatriated to Sydney and Melbourne by private air ambulance and RAAF transport aircraft.