Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with Saskatchewan residents at the Yorkton Airport Friday before embarking on a tour of the flood-ravaged area. ((Dan Kerslake/CBC))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a first-hand look at the flood-ravaged city of Yorkton, Sask., on Thursday.

The city of 15,000 was hit with heavy rain last week that forced 175 people from their homes, damaged 20 businesses and flooded roughly 1,000 basements.

Insurance adjusters from across the Prairies flocked to the city, about 190 kilometres northeast of Regina, to help survey the damage and settle claims.

The prime minister surveyed the damage with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and the federal and Saskatchewan agriculture ministers. Harper noted cities, towns and farmland in Canada's agricultural breadbasket have been devastated by one of the wettest summers on record.

"Today I saw first-hand the devastation caused by recent flooding on the Prairies," Harper said. "Western farmers can rest assured that our government is standing by them and their families during this difficult time."

The federal and provincial governments also announced Thursday a $450-million assistance package for farmers.


After the flood last week, two residents of Yorkton, Sask., filled up an inflatable boat with clothes from their home and headed for higher ground.

Among the Saskatchewan communities hit hard by heavy rainfall this year is Maple Creek, in southwestern Saskatchewan, where heavy rains flooded basements and collapsed a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway in June.

In early July, at least 100 people were left homeless near the town of Raymore and on the Kawacatoose First Nation when a tornado touched down. The F3 tornado destroyed or heavily damaged more than a dozen homes and four farms in the region.

Following his visit to Saskatchewan, Harper was to head to Alberta to visit family and attend the Calgary Stampede.

[GALLERY id=3650 cat=canada]
With files from The Canadian Press