Future earthquake and tsunami will likely start at Haida Gwaii: study

Dec 19 2017, 10:42 pm

British Columbia’s next major earthquake and tsunami could have an epicentre immediately south of the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, according to new research presented in the latest bulletin in Seismological Society of America.

A thrust earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.8 struck Haida Gwaii on October 27, 2012 is believed to have alleviated some strain, but it may have also increased pressure south of the islands along the Queen Charlotte Fault.

The findings were based on research on the earthquake, which was the second largest seismic event in recorded Canadian history. There was no major structural damage given the depth of the event and the relatively remote location, but the nature of the earthquake still sparked major tsunami evacuations in Tofino and Hawaii.

The study notes that the Pacific and North American tectonic plates usually slide along one another, but there are areas along the Queen Charlotte Fault where the plates push against each other.

This caused the pressure that led to the 2012 earthquake and it is believed that this will occur again just south of the islands. Thrust earthquakes on the ocean floor are known for producing tsunami waves.

These scientific findings come after a provincial government-sanctioned report released two weeks ago found that B.C. is severely behind on earthquake preparedness as provincial and local agencies have cutback on their funding for emergency preparedness over the past 20 years.

“In B.C., the lack of significant seismic activity near highly populated areas has resulted in widespread apathy,” notes the report. “This has meant that earthquake preparedness has not received the day-to-day attention that other pressing needs have received.”

“A public that is aware and prepared can put less pressure on scarce resources. A prepared public is also part of a broader system of preparedness. Evidence from other jurisdictions and other public safety initiatives speaks to the value of public education.”

Scientists say there is a 12 per cent chance an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 or greater will strike B.C. over the next half century.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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