Aftershocks continue to hit B.C. coast after 7.7 quake
Published Sunday, October 28, 2012 8:15AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 28, 2012 9:48PM EDT
Hundreds of aftershocks hit British Columbia including a 6.4-magnitude tremor Sunday afternoon,following one of the strongest earthquakes to the area in decades.
The province’s coastline was walloped with a 7.7-magnitude earthquake just after 8 p.m. PT Saturday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck at a depth of 17 kilometres centred 139 km south of Masset in the Haida Gwaii region.
Residents inVancouver’s mainland felt the intense quake with smaller tremors reaching the Greater Vancouver Area. Peopleas far as Edmonton, Alberta also reportedly feelingaftershocks well into Sunday. Tremors are expected to continue for days but many will go unnoticed.
The quake prompted a number of tsunami warnings along the province’s coastand as far away as Hawaii and California, but all were called off Sunday.
Still no reports of injuries or significant damages have been reported aside from personal belongings broken and misplaced from the tremors.
Tsunami warnings were issued for a large stretch of the North and Central coast, as well as the Haida Gwaii region. These Tsunami warnings prompted some residents to evacuate their homes. Haida Gwaii and other coastal communities such as Tofino sought out higher ground.
All of the warnings affecting British Columbia’s coastline were called off at about 3:22 a.m. Sunday in a bulletin from the U.S. National Weather Service’s West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.
Though the threat of a damaging tsunami has passed, strong waves off the coast of B.C. still pose a risk to boaters and swimmers, oceanographer Tad Murty told CTV News Channel Sunday.
“Even if the tsunami amplitude is small, the currents could be very strong,” he said.
The largest wave that lashed against Langara Island, in the Haida Gwaii area, measured 69 centimetres.
The earthquake produced strong waves that travelled north to the Alaska panhandle and south towards California and the Hawaiian islands, CTV Meteorologist Michael Kuss reported Sunday.
Environment Canada had urged residents in low-lying areas of coastal B.C. to seek higher ground as tall waves lashed the province’s shoreline. CTV British Columbia’s Penny Daflos reported that at least three communities -- Sandspit, Bella Bella and Prince Rupert -- were evacuated as a precaution.
Power outages were reported at some B.C. homes, while others said the tremor rattled their nerves and caused objects to fly off shelves.
Carsten Ginsburg, who lives in the small community of Bella Coola southeast of Prince Rupert, said the quake lasted for about 40 seconds.
"It shook everything. The electricity went out, the power lines were swinging all over the place and stuff was falling off the shelves,” she told The Canadian Press on Sunday.
In a conference call recorded late Saturday night, B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond told reporters the province was “certainly grateful at this point” that there appeared to be little damage.
Concerns that information was not passed quickly enough by the B.C. government to local officials has been raised. Bond told the Canadian Press she was pleased with the response but a formal review will be conducted.
“Obviously minutes and hours matter when there is a potential catastrophic event, so what I want to do is refine the process so that we do that as well as we possibly can,” Bond told the Canadian Press.
Tsunami advisories were also cancelled in Oregon, Alaska and northern California on Sunday. Under an advisory, strong waves and significant sea level fluctuations are expected but evacuations aren’t necessary.
Saturday’s earthquake was the strongest to hit Canada since 1958, when a 7.9-magnitude quake struck near the British Columbia-Alaska border, according to Natural Resources Canada.
Just nine years before then, an 8.1-magnitude quake hit west of the Queen Charlotte Islands, in the same area that the most recent quake took place.
Earlier this month, more than 590,000 people participated in an earthquake preparation drill called The Great British Columbia ShakeOut. Participants were taught to “drop, cover and hold on” in case of a tremor.
Following the quake, speculation rose regarding the idea of when the “big one” would happen – an earthquake that only happens every 500 years but would cause extensive damage in B.C. and Northwestern U.S.
The last one occurred in January 1700, when a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck offshore of Vancouver Island.
According to Brent Ward, an earth scientist at Simon Fraser University, the “big one” would occur on a different fault line. It is expected to fall on the edge of the Juan de Fuca plate west of Vancouver Island. When that plate finally gives way Ward warns the results will be catastrophic.
Ward said the focus right now should be on the smaller quakes as they are likely to strike more frequently.
-With files from The Canadian Press