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Number 10 of Top 12 of 2012

HAIDA GWAII (NEWS1130) – The shaking was felt from Prince Rupert to Kamloops and all around the Lower Mainland. News1130’s looks at the second largest recorded earthquake in Canadian history.

Just after 8 o’clock on Saturday October 27th, the 7.8 magnitude quake hit about 135 kilometres off Haida Gwaii.

Within minutes, the phones at News1130 lit up as people around the Lower Mainland felt some serious shaking. One man in Port Coquitlam said his chandelier was swaying for several minutes, another said the water in his fish tank spilled all over his floor. A woman in Port Moody said she yelled at her kids to take cover since there was an earthquake, while another man said he just held his daughter while they waited for the shaking to stop.

A short time later, the tsunami warning sirens on the West Coast of Vancouver Island went off as hundreds of people had to leave their homes. Tofino had to issue its own warning after they couldn’t get in touch with provincial or federal emergency crews.

Another tsunami alert later that morning saw 100,000 evacuated in Hawaii. Hundreds of aftershocks were reported in the area for weeks after.

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.”

No damage or injuries were reported, but the quake served as a wake-up call to many, including the provincial warning centre which was roundly criticized for being slow off the mark.

Julianne McCaffrey with the Provincial Emergency Program 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 12,000 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.”