Livestock death toll from flooding at 640,000+
With recovery efforts underway in flood-stricken parts of British Columbia, officials are getting an idea of the massive impact the extreme weather has had on the province's livestock.
In an update Thursday, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said more than 640,000 animals are known to have died.
That total includes 628,000 poultry, 12,000 hogs and 420 dairy cows. Additionally, 110 beehives were destroyed.
There are still more than 800 farms under evacuation, so official believe the death toll will likely change as residents and operators return.
Popham said solemnly that the weather is expected to be better over the next few days, which will be "critical for removal of carcasses."
"The work by farmers and volunteers and companies to clean out barns and to remove those 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," she said.
Popham did not provide details on her motive for making such a statement, but it may have been a reference to comments posted on social media suggesting those who look after these animals didn't care for their wellbeing anyway, as they'd raised them for consumption.
The minister said that the farmers she's been in contact with are showing resilience, and she said they're experiencing what she described as "a good problem to have." They're having to find several centres for the public to drop off feed and supplies.
"The generosity of people is exceptional," she said.
Popham said she's also working with the B.C. Agriculture Council to ensure farmers are supported, and she's met with her federal counterpart, Marie-Claude Bibeau, to discuss a recovery package from Ottawa.
"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.
The waters reached depths of 2.4 metres in places, including on properties owned by blueberry producers, and some plants are still under water.
There are about 700 acres of blueberries planted in the Sumas Prairie, part of which is located in Abbotsford, and as with other crops, the full extent of the damage is not yet known.
A series of intense storms brought days of relentless rain over southern B.C., leading to mudslides and flooding across the area. The City of Abbotsford was among the areas hit hardest by the floods.
Further north, a mudslide claimed the lives of at least four people. Another person is still missing and presumed dead.