Abbotsford farmers devastated by destruction of homes, crops in flooding

As fast-moving water flooded into Sumas Prairie following last week’s storm, many of the farmers living in the Abbotsford area had no idea what destruction lay ahead.

Most were in their homes when the flooding began, unaware that the rising water would soon be several feet deep and submerge their houses, as well as their crops.

Speaking to OMNI News Punjabi, blueberry farmer Dave Deol says within a matter of days he lost his crops and expensive farming equipment, adding the flood water also caused massive damage to his home.

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“We have over 100 acres of blueberries planted and today they’ve been destroyed by the floodwaters. Eight or nine tractors are in the water, two trucks are in the water, two harvesting machines are gone. My farm has become a lake,” he said. “It’s been a big loss, thousands of dollars, and a lot of hard work. This farm provided work for about 20 people and their families and now that’s all gone.”

It takes years to cultivate blueberry crops, and with the flooding, most of them will have to be replanted. Blueberry plants usually take about four years to produce a good crop.

According to Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun, more than 1,200 acres of blueberry fields were flooded, and after a few days in the water, all of those plants are likely dead.

It’s a devastating reality for many of the farmers in the hard-hit Sumas Prairie, with Jaswant Singh Dhillon also opening up about the loss of his home and the affects on his family.

“My home was brand new. It was built just a year ago, and when I came back after the floods I saw our furniture just floating in the water,” he said, adding repairs will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We don’t know when or if we can go back. The foundation may be compromised. Our home was in the water for so many days so we aren’t sure right now.”

Dhillon posted videos of his flood-ravaged home online, showing the house submerged in several feet of water. Furniture is seen floating down the hallways as a stunned Dhillon is shown walking through his home.

“We didn’t know we weren’t going to be back. I just left to work that day and haven’t gone back since. I wasn’t able to go back to get my identification cards, my clothes, my medications for diabetes. When I think about that it hurts a lot,” he said.

Dhillon says he and his family are trying to stay strong for each other but admits seeing years of hard work destroyed was heartbreaking.

“My wife and I, we are trying to stay positive, to not show the pain we feel to each other,” he said.

He says while he does have insurance, his provider will not cover damages to homes in flood zones.

Iqbal Singh Brar has also suffered a huge financial loss due to the floods.

“There are six feet of water still there. You can only reach my farm by boat even this many days on. With the loss of the trucks, we’re out at least $9,000. It’s all gone,” he said tearfully.

While the farmers have been left reeling, many say nothing was done to warn them of the floods.

Brar says he had to act fast to help alert his neighbours of the rising waters.

“No one told us to leave. We called everyone we could and told them to get out, the water is coming. Within minutes the flooding started. We had no contact with any officials so far and we have no idea what comes next,” he said.

Tajinder Sandhu and her husband are among those who got word of the flooding from Brar, having received no warning from the city or province beforehand.

“If he didn’t tell us, we could’ve drowned in our homes,” she said. “We didn’t think we would be out long. We thought we’d be out of the house for a day at most, so we didn’t take anything, just our IDs. My husband is sick so we also took his medication and that’s it.”

She says they’re still waiting to see when it’ll be safe to re-enter their home but adds that could be more than a week away.

“We’re just mourning it. For our kids, we’re trying to stay strong, but sometimes when we go to sleep or wake up we think we have nothing left. There are no words,” she said.

On Thursday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was asked about the next steps when it comes to aiding farmers in Sumas Prairie. He says it will take time for the water in the area to recede and for the damage to be assessed.

“We are working very hard to determine exactly what the needs are particularly in the agricultural areas. Highway 1 and a lot of the other regional roads in that community, the water has receded,” he said. “They are looking at the impacts to make sure that they’re safe. We know there is a significant financial impact on farmers. There are agricultural programs in place but we also know there are gaps. And that’s why given the nature of this event and the nature of the damage, we’ll be working very closely with the federal government to ensure that we get assistance for people impacted particularly in these areas.”

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