Kalihi residents’ devastating flood damage may not be covered by insurance

Editor’s Note: KHON2’s Laulima Giving Program is stepping in to coordinate the effort to get the victims exactly what they need most. View the update here.

Reality for the flood victims of Sunday’s rain storm means the heartbreak of having to start over again.

Residents of Hale Umi condominiums were struck hard by the storm. Their building is right next to Kalihi Stream, which overflowed into the ground floor apartments. As many as nine units were damaged.

Some residents tell us they had homeowners insurance, which they thought covered flood damage — but that’s not the case.

For flood victims on day two of the cleanup, it seems like they’ve hardly made any progress.

“Washer and dryer was upside down. All this furniture was down, stove flooded,” said resident Joseph Aiello.

For one family, it wasn’t just about losing their belongings. Some of them barely made it out of their apartment alive.

Seven-year-old Simon dela Cruz says the water was up to his neck. He’s fine physically, but clearly traumatized by what happened.

His family was trying to get out, but they couldn’t get the door open, because the water was pushing it in. Somebody had to smash the window.

Hawaii Red Cross volunteers visited the victims Tuesday to offer some help. Along with that came a steady stream of friends and neighbors who brought food and water, and helped clean up the mess.

This took residents by surprise, even those who have lived here for years.

Kalihi Stream is normally about two feet high, but Sunday night, the water level rose up to more than 10 feet.

“I had some paperwork from school and you know my uniforms from middle school are all gone, so I had to use some other stuff and and my mini iPad, it’s kind of damaged,” said 12-year-old Zoe Fukuda-Seki. She and her family lost practically everything valuable inside that house.

But Fukuda-Seki says it’s not the bed or the iPad mini that she’s going to miss the most. It’s all her equipment for hula and her Kamaka ukulele.

“It was right there and it started floating and stuff and it was all soggy too, and it broke in two pieces, so I have to get a new one which cost a lot of money and I don’t think I’m gonna be able to afford it,” she said.

Her stepfather says they have homeowner’s insurance, which they figured would have covered the cost of replacing their personal belongings, but they just found out that they needed a separate flood insurance for that.

“We got our life, so that’s the main thing. We got to see the community get together, so it’s all good we’re safe,” said Joe Aiello.

The flood victims say they are able to stay with family and friends, but they point out it could take weeks to get their homes livable again.

Some have already said they don’t want to live there anymore.

Hawaii insurance commissioner Gordon Ito points out that it’s always important to check your policy to know exactly what it covers. It’s a common misconception that flood insurance is covered under homeowners insurance, but the two things are separate.

Residents are advised to check their policy to also be aware of their deductible.

Victims can apply to get some help from government agencies.

“With respect to people who have flood loss and did not have flood insurance, I think there are some programs the government may come out with in terms of getting loans and typically that’s what happens,” said Ito.

Click here for more on how to protect your home or vehicle before the worst happens.

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