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Travel Insurance and Volcanoes

There are many types of volcanoes, but the kind that most people are familiar with are those that are more visible, forming conical mountains. And in an era of 24-hour news cycles and social media, many of the more famous volcanoes have become popular tourist attractions.

Volcanoes are typically classified as:

  • Active – these are volcanoes that erupt regularly. However, since volcanoes can have lifespans that stretch over millions of years, an active volcano could show signs of activity without having erupted in decades.

  • Dormant (or Inactive) – dormant volcanoes are those that aren’t showing any signs of major activity but could still become active at any time. Some dormant volcanoes haven’t erupted for thousands of years but have the potential to become active again.

  • Extinct – these are volcanoes that are considered unlikely to ever become active or erupt, since they no longer have a magma supply.

Unfortunately, the volcanoes that attract the most attention, and by extension tourists, are those that are active, and to a lesser extent, those that are dormant. And both types pose risks.

Why are volcanoes dangerous?

Many people assume that the only risk posed by active volcanoes is in the form of lava and pyroclastic flows associated with various types of volcanic eruptions. While these are serious hazards, with pyroclastic flows able to travel at speeds of up to 700 km/hr, there are other hazards associated with active volcanoes. These include mudflows (or lahars), avalanches, and debris flows - which are lahars that have collected rocks, trees, and other debris together as it moves. And lahars, debris flows, and avalanches don't only occur during an eruption; they can happen days or weeks after an eruption has ended, when rain interacts with any volcanic ash that has settled around the volcano.

Other risks that can affect people who aren't even close to an erupting volcano are earthquakes, and the ash that is spewed out by some volcanoes. Volcanic ash can be carried over a great distance by air currents, resulting in breathing difficulties and other respiratory ailments, along with skin and eye irritations. Aircraft can also be affected by volcanic ash, with the particles in the ash able to result in catastrophic engine failure. The 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland famously caused extensive disruptions to air travel in and around Europe, with several countries shutting down air traffic completely for almost a week.

More recently, a lava bomb hit a tour boat that takes visitors to see lava plunging into the ocean from the Kïlauea volcano in Hawaii, injuring 23 tourists.

Volcanic Activity and Travel Insurance

Insurers place embargoes on travel insurance cover to regions with active volcano eruptions, or very recent eruptions. The embargoes don't affect travel insurance policies purchased and activated before a certain date. But any policies bought and activated after a specified date will have no cover for claims resulting from any volcanic activity, including delayed or cancelled flights as a result of volcanic ash.

When buying travel insurance, always ask if any embargoes are in place for the destination(s) you will be travelling to. Insurers also have their own travel advisories or travel alerts pages on their websites which you can also check. If any advisories or alerts are issued after you have already booked your trip - and bought travel insurance - you can contact the insurer for advice on how you might be affected. Having travel insurance that includes cover for cancellation or deferment costs is always advisable in such cases, since it will prevent you from being completely out-of-pocket if you are forced to cancel your trip due to volcanic activity.

Active volcano map

List of Currently Erupting Volcanoes

Country

Name of Volcano

Most Recent Activity

Current Status

Antarctica

Mount Erebus

1972 to present

Erupting

Mount Michael

November 2016

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Colombia

Nevado del Ruiz

December 2014 to July 2018 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Costa Rica

Poás

April 2017

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Rincón de la Vieja

2015 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Volcán Turrialba

2010 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Ecuador

Cotopaxi

August 2015 to January 2016

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Reventador

2008 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Sangay

1934 to present

Erupting

Tungurahua

2000 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Ethiopia

Erta Ale

2005 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Guatemala

Santa María

1922 to present

Erupting

Volcán de Fuego

2002 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

India

Barren Island

January 2017

Restless

Indonesia

Mount Agung

2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Batu Tara

2007 to 2015 (Ongoing)

Restless

Dukono

1933 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Gamalama

July to August 2015 (Ongoing)

Restless

Karangetang

February to June 2015 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Mount Sinabung

April 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Mount Sirung

July 2015 (Ongoing)

Dormant

Raung

April to August 2015

Dormant

Sangeang Api

June 2017

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Semeru

1967 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Merapi

May 2018

Erupting

Italy

Mount Etna

2014 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Stromboli

1934 to present

Erupting

Japan

Mount Asama

June 2015 (Ongoing)

Restless

Mount Hakone

July 2015

Restless

Mount Shindake

June 2015

Restless

Nishinoshima

April 2018

Dormant

Sakurajima

1955 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Shinmoedake

April 2018

Erupting

Suwanosejima

2004 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Mexico

Popocatépetl

2004 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Volcán de Colima

2013 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Restless

Nicaragua

Concepción

May to July 2015 (Ongoing)

Restless

San Cristóbal

June 2015 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Papua New Guinea

Bagana

2000 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Kadovar

2018

Erupting

Manam

2010 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Peru

Sabancaya

November 2016 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Ubinas

October 2016

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Philippines

Mount Mayon

January to March, 2018

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Réunion

Piton de la Fournaise

July 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Russia

Chirinkotan

September 2017

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Chyornie Bratya

July 2016

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Karymsky

2001 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Shiveluch

1999 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Zhupanovsky

2014 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Restless

United States

Kïlauea

January 1983 to present

Erupting

Mount Cleveland

April 2016

Minor Activity or Eruption Warning

Mount Shishaldin

2014 to 2015

Dormant

Vanuatu

Ambrym

2009 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

Mount Yasur

1774 to 2018 (Ongoing)

Erupting

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