Emergency officials push for preparedness after earthquake

NANAIMO: Magnitude 7.7 earthquake in Haida Gwaii calls city's Emergency Response Program into action.

No reports of damage or even shaking came from Nanaimo residents following a magnitude 7.7 earthquake off the west coast of Haida Gwaii on the weekend.

The tremor happened shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday and has been followed up with numerous aftershocks, including a 6.3 shaker Sunday. The initial quake triggered tsunami alerts for the B.C. coast and Hawaii.

Neither the earthquake, its aftershocks or tsunami waves caused any reported major damage or injuries in the regions affected.

Karen Lindsay, Nanaimo Emergency Program coordinator, said she was alerted via e-mail to the quake about one hour after it occurred by the Province of B.C.’s notification system. City staff monitored additional alerts and updates from Emergency Management B.C. and took part in a conference call from the province at 11 p.m. No alerts or warnings were issued for Nanaimo.

“The information was timely because we were not having to do any level of evacuation,” Lindsay said. “We received the information at the same time as everybody else.”

Nanaimo is at a low risk for tsunamis, Lindsay said, but it is a good idea to stay away from the waterfront during such a warning because of the risk of heavy currents or riptide effects that can occur following seismic disturbances.

Lindsay said the quake is a reminder that Nanaimo is in a seismically active region and that people should keep emergency preparedness kits in their homes and business. Kits should be stocked with supplies to last at least 72 hours, but realistically residents should have prepared kits sufficient for seven days, which is the time it could take before emergency services might be able to reach them following a major disaster.

Residents should also sign up for Nanaimo’s Emergency Call Alert System designed to contact people by phone with vital information about major emergencies if phone lines are functioning.

Saturday’s earthquake was the second largest recorded in Canada. The largest seismic event to strike Canada was an 8.1 magnitude quake that also occurred in the Haida Gwaii region in 1949 and remains the strongest earthquake recorded in Canada since 1700.

“The whole coast was fortunate that there was no injury, no death, no destruction,” Lindsay said. “Hopefully this will serve as a reminder for people to get prepared – a 7.7 earthquake is huge. We were lucky.”

For more information, please visit http://fire.nanaimo.ca.

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