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Cost of catastrophic flooding rises

Payouts mount as rebuild costs reach into the billions
Sumas Prairie in Abbotsford saw severe damage as a result of flooding in November 2021| Photo: Chung Chow

The latest numbers from the Insurance Bureau of Canada point to the growing fallout from last November’s catastrophic flooding and mudslides.

A total of $675 million in insurable losses have been attributed to the disaster, IBC reported June 15. This makes it the ninth most expensive weather event in Canadian history in terms of insurance payouts.

This is well above initial estimates in the immediate aftermath of the floods that pegged insured losses in the range of $450 million. The largest portion of payouts are associated with commercial policies, for which coverage was more readily available.

“In contrast, many residents affected by the floods were located in high-risk flood areas and floodplains where residential flood insurance coverage is not readily available,” IBC said in a statement to Western Investor.

Overland flood insurance is available to about 95% of properties in B.C., according to IBC, but it is an optional coverage that’s relatively new to the market. Just half of B.C. residents have purchased it.

The cost of the disaster to insurers does not include uninsured losses and damage to infrastructure. The agriculture sector, for example, is estimated to have suffered an additional $285 million in damages.

Emergency Management BC estimates the initial response and recovery costs from November’s flooding and landslides at more than $4 billion. But the province notes, “this estimate will continue to be refined as local government recovery plans are received and provincial recovery initiatives, such as Highway Reinstatement Program and debris removal work continues.”

On June 13, for example, Abbotsford approved a flood mitigation strategy, including new pump stations and dike upgrades. It’s expected to cost more than $2 billion.

The disaster also led to dozens of reductions in property assessments.

BC Assessment Authority records indicate that 66 property owners on Sumas Prairie sought reductions in their property assessments on the 2022 roll as a result of flooding. A total of 60 adjustments were made, resulting in $11,792,000 in reductions for “substantially damaged or destroyed properties.”

BC Assessment notes that these 60 properties are a fraction of the 1,049 folios within Sumas Prairie.