B.C. floods caused estimated $450 million in insured damage, industry group says

Click to play video: 'BC. floods: Cleanup underway in Fraser Valley'
BC. floods: Cleanup underway in Fraser Valley
The worst of last month's storms may be behind us, but those in the Fraser Valley are only just beginning to pick up the pieces. The damage to one popular park near Chilliwack has left it unrecognizable. And while residents in Sumas Prairie slowly return home, many remain without drinking water. John Hua reports – Dec 8, 2021

The recent record-breaking flooding in southern British Columbia is estimated to have caused $450 million in insured damage, according to preliminary data released by the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

The disaster will be the most costly weather event in the province’s history, the industry organization said in a news release Thursday, and the overall economic losses are expected to be much higher.

“While the insurance damage stemming from these flood events is significant, the sad reality is that many residents impacted were located in high-risk flood areas and floodplains where flood insurance coverage is not available,” vice-president Aaron Sutherland said.

“As a result, the overwhelming majority of costs for this disaster will be borne by government and taxpayers. As we continue to see the increasing impacts of our changing climate, it’s clear much more must be done to create a culture of preparedness and to build our resilience to the risks we face.”

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Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: flood insurance 101'
Consumer Matters: flood insurance 101

A series of atmospheric rivers in the last two weeks of November caused severe flooding and mudslides between Pemberton and Lillooet, Merritt, Princeton, the Fraser Canyon and into the Fraser Valley. Five people were killed, one is still missing, thousands of livestock died, sections of key bridges and roads were destroyed, and homes, businesses and farms were ruined.

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One of the hardest hit areas was the Sumas Prairie region in Abbotsford in the valley, in part because of the equally flooded Nooksack River across the border in Washington state.

Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said earlier this week that water levels in the Sumas area had dropped almost two metres over the past few days, but “it will still be some time before that area becomes accessible again.”

Flood insurance was not available for residents in the Sumas Prairie due to the risk of flooding.

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Click to play video: 'Merritt flood victims gut basements'
Merritt flood victims gut basements

The insurance assessments do not include any of the estimated costs to repair public infrastructure, including the Coquihalla Highway.

The bureau said it’s been in conversation with the federal and provincial governments on ways to better protect communities and better manage the costs of flooding for high-risk residential properties.

For comparison, more than $4 billion was claimed following the catastrophic Fort McMurray wildfires in Alberta in 2016. More homeowners had been able to buy insurance in that situation.

This year, B.C. has been impacted by windstorms in January that caused $134 million in insured damage across western Canada and wildfires caused $155 million in insured damage this past summer.

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– with a file from The Canadian Press

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