Shortly after a tsunami alert was issued for coastal British Columbia in the early hours of Tuesday morning, officials in the Vancouver Island city of Port Alberni swung into action.

Laurie Pley, the city’s manager of recreation services, helped open up an evacuation centre and welcome dozens of people before the tsunami warning, triggered by a powerful earthquake in Alaska, was cancelled.

“There were a number of families and lots of kids,” Pley told CTV News.  She said about 50 people sought shelter at the centre, although staff never got around to registering anyone by the time the warning was lifted.

Pley said the evacuation centre was set up quickly, thanks to previous training on what to do in an emergency situation. 

Most people who came to the centre “were really sleepy,” she said.

“Some of them seemed pretty calm but there was definitely some concern about what was going on.”

Sirens went off in a number of coastal communities after the magnitude 7.9 quake struck at about 1:30 a.m. Pacific time. The quake was centred 278 kilometres southeast of Kodiak, in the Gulf of Alaska, at a depth of about 10 kilometres.

The tsunami warning covered B.C.'s north coast, Haida Gwaii, the west coast of Vancouver Island, the central coast and northeast Vancouver Island, as well as the outer coast of southeast Alaska.

With files from The Canadian Press