Tsunami warning for BC cancelled after magnitude 7.9 Alaska earthquake

Jan 23 2018, 6:42 am

The US Tsunami Warning System and Emergency Management BC have called off a tsunami warning for all of coastal British Columbia after a powerful magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck the coast of Alaska early this morning.

The undersea earthquake struck at 1:31 am PST at a depth of 25 km in an area about 280 km southeast of Kodiak, Alaska. It prompted government authorities to issue a tsunami warning for the state of Hawaii and all coastal areas from Alaska to northern Washington State.

As of 6:20 am PST, about two dozen aftershocks between magnitudes 4 and 5.3 have been detected near the epicentre of the main seismic event.

Shortly after the earthquake, warning sirens went off in communities vulnerable to tsunamis, including Tofino where the first wave was scheduled to arrive at 4:40 am PST. Local officials urged those near water to seek higher ground immediately.

Photos posted on social media show an evacuation centre in Tofino filled with evacuees ahead of the scheduled arrival of the first wave.

The City of Victoria also asked residents living within two blocks from the water to evacuate to areas farther inland, away from low-lying coastal areas.

The City of Vancouver was not part of the tsunami warning.

Shortly after 4 am, the tsunami warning for coastal BC was downgraded to a tsunami advisory. Similar warnings for other areas were also cancelled at around the same time.

Near the epicentre, coastal water levels increased by only about three feet in the Kodiak area – 90 minutes after the first wave was scheduled to hit.

“A tsunami warning on the Coast of B.C. has now been cancelled,” reads a statement issued by Mike Farnworth, the BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“Overnight, several communities along the coast activated their emergency plans and evacuated those at risk. Emergency Management BC activated the Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre, and five provincial regional operations centers. The agency also supported local governments to evacuate residents. Although the tsunami warning was eventually suspended, this event demonstrates that coast warning systems do work.”

Farnworth added that residents should refrain from calling 911 for information on the tsunami. Such calls to emergency services should only be made if your life is at stake.

“In the event of a future tsunami warning, stay calm, stay safe; listen to your local officials and head to higher ground,” he added.

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