Local officials concerned about province's handling of B.C. quake
Published Monday, October 29, 2012 9:01AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 29, 2012 11:51AM EDT
In the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that struck off the coast of British Columbia Saturday, some local officials are immediately raising concerns about the provincial government’s response.
The 7.7-magnitude quake hit B.C.'s Haida Gwaii around 8 p.m. local time Saturday, and was considered one of the biggest in Canadian history -- though no major damage was reported. Although tsunami advisories along the B.C. coast and in Hawaii have been lifted, dozens of aftershocks were still felt throughout the province on Sunday.
Tofino Mayor Peter Schmunk told the Canadian Press Monday that information was slow to arrive at a local level and municipal officials with the Vancouver Island community were forced to put their own plan into action over fears of a possible tsunami.
But B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond said she's pleased overall with the response of emergency officials and local governments, saying a review will still take place.
At least one local government system may have had technical difficulties, Bond acknowledged, though she is waiting for a full review before assessing what may have happened.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson had also warned that residents need to be ready if and when “the big one” hits, calling the quake a wake-up call for his city.
"Obviously, too close to home," Robertson told reporters. "We are very much worried about a big earthquake here, we're due for one in Vancouver … a real focus needs to happen for residents and businesses to be ready for the big one."
Still, Robertson acknowledges that a number of steps have already been taken. For instance, the city has put together a heavy urban search-and-rescue team, trained volunteers and conducted emergency preparedness workshops for residents.
In fact, earlier this month, more than 590,000 people participated in an earthquake preparation drill called The Great British Columbia Shake Out, where residents were taught to “drop, cover and hold on” in case of a large tremor.
But Robertson says more needs to be done: If the Haida Gwaii quake had happened in Vancouver, or close to it, the damage could have been catastrophic.
The quake struck just after 8 p.m. PT Saturday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck at a depth of 17 kilometres, centred 139 kilometres south of Masset, B.C., in the Haida Gwaii region.
Residents of B.C.’s Lower Mainland felt the intense quake, with smaller tremors reaching the Greater Vancouver Area. People as far as central Alberta also reportedly felt aftershocks well into Sunday.
Tremors are expected to continue for days, but many will go unnoticed.
The quake prompted a number of tsunami warnings along B.C.’s coast and as far away as Hawaii and California, but all were called off Sunday. There are no reports of injuries or significant damage.
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.
Following the weekend quake, speculation rose about when the so-called “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 “big” quake 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, such a quake would occur on a different fault line: the edge of the Juan de Fuca plate, located west of Vancouver Island.
With files from The Canadian Press