Nearly 700,000 animals have lost their lives in Canada, after torrential rain resulted in flooding and mudslides across British Columbia (BC).
So far, the BC Ministry of Agriculture announced that 420 dairy cows, 12,000 pigs, and 628,000 birds have died. Additionally, 110 beehives were destroyed, killing an estimated three million bees.
This greatly exceeds the ministry’s original predictions of several thousand animal deaths.
Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham described the situation as “heartbreaking” at a news conference last week.
“The work by farmers and volunteers and companies to clean out barns and to remove those [deceased] animals continues to be extremely heartbreaking. I request that folks remain empathetic and caring in their comments, as they continue to do this very difficult work,” Popham said.
The animal death toll is expected to rise further, given that 819 farms are still under evacuation orders.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said that five feet of water has flooded the Sumas Prairie, which is home to 200,000 cattle.
“Many of those calves … with three to five feet of water, those calves drowned. They couldn’t get them out,” Braun said.
Further, some animals who managed to survive will be euthanized due to injury.
Donation centers have been established to help provide those affected with animal feed and other supplies – especially as winter approaches.
The BC Ministry of Agriculture is working alongside the federal government to develop a recovery package for farmers, in hopes that it will assist them in returning to work.
But hundreds of acres of crops have been damaged by the extreme weather event. According to The Guardian, as many as 700 acres of blueberry crops are still underwater.
“We’re still in the process of quantifying losses, whether it be animal crops or plant crops, and we hope to firm up those numbers as the waters recede,” Popham said.
Nearly 15,000 people were forced to leave their homes during the flooding. Additionally, more than 4,000 properties are still under evacuation orders.
Blake Shaffer is an economics professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. On Twitter, Shaffer warned that the floods will prove to be “easily the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.”