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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Homeowners insurance limited

 •  Photo Gallery - Halloween Eve Flood
 •  Cloning, medical research hit hard by flooding at UH
 •  Manoa, UH assess flash flood's damage
 •  Librarians rush to salvage flood-damaged items
 •  Students in library fled floodwaters
 •  Halloween eve flood damage to UH facilities 'unbelievable'

By Deborah Adamson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dozens of Manoa residents have filed insurance claims for damage to their homes and cars by flash flooding over the weekend, but many who do not have flood insurance are finding that the protection in their homeowners policies is limited.

This Manoa resident found his auto washed up against a tree Saturday night. The comprehensive portion of an auto policy covers flood damage to a car, according to officials at Geico. If a car is totaled, the owner is reimbursed the market value of the vehicle.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Flood is specifically excluded from the basic homeowners policy," said Carolyn Fujioka, a spokeswoman for State Farm Insurance in Honolulu, Hawai'i's largest writer of homeowners insurance, with more than 100,000 residential policies or one-fourth market share.

Since the flooding, State Farm received about 25 homeowner claims from Manoa — and only half of them have flood insurance.

First Insurance in Honolulu said it received fewer than a dozen homeowners, flood insurance and auto claims as of midday yesterday. The insurer is the second largest writer of homeowners policies in the state, with 40,000 policies and an 11 percent market share.

"There was one homeowners claim filed, but it may not be covered," said Steve Tabussi, vice president of customer solutions.

On O'ahu there are nearly 29,300 flood insurance policies, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. The agency administers the National Flood Insurance Program, which partners with insurers to offer flood insurance to homeowners, renters and businesses. U.S. insurers generally don't write flood policies outside of the federal program.

The average flood insurance premium in Honolulu is $309 a year and it covers nearly $130,000 in damage on average, according to FEMA, which sets the rates.

Flood insurance covers up to $250,000 in damage to a single-family home and up to $100,000 for its contents. Business structures are covered up to $500,000 and contents up to $500,000.

Karen Shimabuku, a resident of upper Manoa, has flood insurance but she said thankfully she didn't have to use it. Floodwaters reached no farther than her garage.

"I've been around too many of these floods," she said. "If you live by a stream, you should get (flood insurance), right?"

Homeowners also have been filing auto claims, as engines were flooded or cars swept away.

AIG Hawaii received 13 auto claims as of yesterday morning, said Mike Onofrietti, vice president and actuary.

Unlike the rains earlier in the year, "this was such an unusual event and so abrupt. ... I think we'll have fewer claims but they'll be more severe," he said.

The comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy covers flood damage to the car, said Tim Dayton, general manager of Geico in Honolulu. If the car is totaled, owners will be reimbursed the market value of their vehicles.

Ryan Sueoka's one-year-old Honda Accord won't start after waters reached 6 inches high inside his car. The Kane'ohe resident was visiting a friend in Manoa when his car was flooded.

"It's not my baby anymore. It's damaged," he said.

"I plan to get an SUV. It's higher so the water can flow under the car."

Reach Deborah Adamson at dadamson@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8088.