HAIDA GWAII (NEWS1130) – Numerous aftershocks, including a magnitude 6.4, have occurred near Haida Gwaii. None have prompted a tsunami warning.
The 7.7 earthquake just off Haida Gwaii hit at 8 p.m. Saturday night. The strong tremor was centred 17-kilometres below the earth’s surface and about 200 kilometres south-southwest of Prince Rupert.
A tsunami warning was issued but was lifted early Sunday morning.
The earthquake set off emergency sirens across the Pacific on the islands of Hawaii. The tsunami warning for the state was later downgraded.
Michael Bostock is an earthquake expert with UBC. He says earthquakes in this area are reasonably common.
“In fact, I think Canada’s largest historically recorded earthquake occurred on the Queen Charlotte fault,” he notes. “There is a major plate boundary — the Queen Charlotte Transform Fault — that runs just north of Vancouver Island all the way up the coast past the Haida Gwaii, up towards the Alaska panhandle. This is a region that does experience large earthquakes with some regularity.”
Bostock says the Queen Charlotte fault is very much like the San Andreas fault in California.
“It’s off-shore…meaning there is the risk of a tsunami. This is the kind of plate boundary that is a transform fault boundary. It means the the two plates are moving past each other along a vertical fault.”
He adds we could have aftershocks for a couple of days.
“After a large earthquake like this, it’s possible that there can be aftershocks happening for several days afterwards. Aftershocks are sometimes hard to predict like main shocks, but I think we can expect light activity for the next few days.”
Justice Minister Shirley Bond said there appeared to be little damage from the quake.
“We’re certainly grateful at this point,” said Bond, who spoke to reporters during a late night conference call. “We’re very grateful for that, but we’ll wait until we can actually see the impact.”
Julianne McCaffrey with the Provincial Emergency Program confirms people reported feeling the tremor in various regions across the province including Terrace, Prince George and the Lower Mainland.
“The warning itself that we had for the tsunami was for the Queen Charlotte Islands and the north coast, which included Bella Bella and Bella Coola, and to the tip of Vancouver Island,” she explains. “At one point it included an advisory for the Capital Regional District with includes the Victoria area.”
McCaffrey says the province is taking steps to ensure that it is ready when an earthquake hits.
“The province routinely does exercises, planning and certainly is working with the local regions to help prepare and plan for emergencies. As recent as October 18, we did our Shake Out BC, which is a province-wide emergency drill for earthquakes.”
“This is a keen reminder that we live in a very seismically-active province. We have about 12-hundred earthquakes a year. On average you could say that’s three a day,” McCaffrey adds. “There is a keen personal responsibility to be prepared, have an emergency plan and certainly an emergency kit so that you’re prepared for at least 72 hours.”
Meanwhile, in Alaska, the wave surge was just 10-centimetres, much smaller than officials had been forecasting.
Tofino issues own tsunami warning
One of the most vulnerable stretches of the BC coast found itself in a frustrating situation Saturday night.
Tofino issued its own tsunami warning after they couldn’t get in touch with provincial or federal emergency crews.
Mayor Perry Schmunk said his town’s own Emergency Response Team started the tsunami protocol.
“[We] tried to contact the province at that time. We had trouble in the very early stages finding out anything more,” Schmunk explains. “And I assume because of the magnitude of the earthquake, there was no updates. We couldn’t even log on to the website to see what was going on.”
He says a small wave did wash ashore.
“The good news is, it was of no significance. It came by Tofino at 10:04. We had the conversation with the province of BC at 11 p.m. I think we made the right call in airing in caution.”
Schmunk is now asking for a meeting with the province to find out exactly what went wrong with communication.