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UPDATE: 7.7 magnitude earthquake hits 139 km south of Masset, Prince Rupert deemed safe
The earth on the north coast was moving on Saturday night as a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck 139 km south of Masset.
"We're going around and checking now, waiting to see if there was any damage. I do know that it felt like there was a train going through, it was enough for me to move away from the windows," Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha said.
The earthquake occurred at 8:04 p.m. at the epicenter on Oct. 27.
Although the earthquake happened 202 km away from Prince Rupert, many felt or noticed signs of it. The quake was felt as far inland as Chetwynd through the Pine Pass and as far south as Vancouver.
The earthquake happened 17.5 kilometres below the surface. There is now a tsunami warning in effect for the coastal areas of British Columbia and Alaska. However the chances of Prince Rupert flooding from tsunami waves are unlikely considering the city's harbour is surrounded by islands.
"All coastal and all low lying areas within the area are being issued an evacuation notice and are being asked to go to higher grounds. That includes all of our local marinas both in the villages and Prince Rupert," Prince Rupert Constable Matt Ericson said.
Port Edward residents living near the shore and in low laying areas have been notified to move to higher ground, but there is no evacuation notice in place.
Port operations have also been evacuated according to Prince Rupert Port Authority spokesperson Michael Gurney, who said this was just a precaution.
"Only an 8 foot rise in water level was observed in Sandspit, so by the time a wave, if any, reaches Prince Rupert it will be negligible," he told the Prince Rupert Northern View.
Local Emergency Services and Prince Rupert Port Authority have mustered at the Emergency Command Centre at City Hall to monitor the situation. The atmosphere at the centre is said to be calm.
"Progress is being monitored carefully," assured Gurney.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has confirmed a 5.8 magnitude aftershock happened ten minutes after the initial quake, a magnitude 4.8 aftershock was felt within the hour, and a representative for the organization says aftershocks could last for months.
A joint statement from the USGS and the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination Centre states "No destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data. However - The West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center has issued a regional warning for coasts located near the earthquake. This center will continue to monitor the situation but does not expect a wider threat to occur".
Shortly after 11 p.m. the emergency Operations Command Centre in City Hall ceased operations and Prince Rupert's terminals, city, and harbour were deemed safe after the tsunami warning was downgraded to an tsunami advisory. The warning indicates that " a tsunami with significant widespread inundation is imminent or expected" while the advisory indicates that "a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water is expected...Significant widespread inundation is not expected for areas under an advisory. Currents may be hazardous to swimmers... boats... and coastal structures and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival".
Keeping checking back for updates.