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Who pays for Madame Pele’s visit?

May 10, 2018

You have to feel bad for the people who lose their homes to a natural disaster. Just imagine if it was your home.

But should taxpayers pay for the loss?

That’s a question “Russ” asked when he heard that Hawaii’s governor was planning on asking for help from FEMA.

Sometimes of course natural disasters are so random, or so statistically unlikely  that no one could prepare for them.

That isn’t always the case though.

For instance, homes that lie in the path of Atlantic hurricanes, or are so close to a river that is known to flood regularly, and now, homes built in an area that is known to be in an active volcanic zone.

In Hawaii’s case, should any of those homes have been built in the first place?

Kilauea, one of five volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands, has erupted 34 times in the past 66 years, and is generally judged to be the most active volcano in the world.

Normally it doesn’t have the huge aerial displays that we think of as volcanic eruptions, but it has funneled new lava to the sea many times in recorded history. In fact without these volcanic events Hawaii wouldn’t exist at all.

You might be asking why the government would let anyone would build a home below it.

Hawaii has a long history with volcanoes so residents don’t fear them as much as we mainlanders would. Land near them is often cheaper to purchase because of the risk, but homeowners  insurance for volcano damage is reportedly next to nonexistent at any price.

It has been a long time since a major lava flow has threatened the current affected area, and the current flow was probably caused by a particularly large volcanic earthquake that cracked open existing lava channels.

So much for the explanation of how the homes got there in the first place.

Should FEMA pay for part of the costs?

Probably, but it shouldn’t pay for homes to be rebuilt in the same area. It would be hypocritical to pay to rebuild homes in New Orleans or along the eastern seaboard and leave Hawaii out.

But sooner or later, we need to start  minimizing the cost of FEMA to the taxpayers, perhaps by mandating changes in what will be reimbursed, or prorating the payments according to the risk factors.


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From → op-ed

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