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Lack of warning worries Prince Rupert

A 7.7 magnitude earthquake rattled the north coast on Saturday evening, with countless aftershocks following. Luckily. no injuries and or substantial damage was done.

“We missed the bullet. We’re very, very fortunate. We’re taking it as a good opportunity to practice for something more severe,” Carol Kulesha, mayor of Queen Charlotte City, said.

The earthquake occurred at 8:04 p.m. at the epicenter on Oct. 27, 139 kilometres south of Masset. The quake happened 17.5 kilometres below the surface.

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.

Tsunami warnings were issued shortly after for Haida Gwaii and the north coast, as well as parts of central B.C.’s coast, Alaska and Hawaii.

Local Emergency Services and the Prince Rupert Port Authority mustered at the Emergency Operations Command Centre at City Hall, where they closely monitored the situation.

In Prince Rupert, emergency services blocked off access to low-laying and coastal areas, with an evacuation notice originally being put in place in those areas.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority’s (PRPA) operations were also evacuated as a precaution.

Port Edward residents living near the shore and in low laying areas were notified to move to high grounds.

Fortunately, because the earthquake was caused by the earth’s plates sliding horizontally across each other in a strike-slip action instead of the plates sliding vertically, the threat of a large tsunami was not likely.

Shortly after 11 p.m.  on Saturday, the centre ceased operations and Prince Rupert’s terminals, city, and harbour  were deemed safe after the tsunami warning was downgraded to an tsunami advisory.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed a 5.8 magnitude aftershock happened ten minutes after the initial quake, with over sixty smaller shocks happening over the next day. The largest aftershock, a 6.3 magnitude, happened at 12:09 p.m. on Oct. 28 159 kilometres south-southwest of Masset.

“I [haven’t been feeling aftershocks] but I’ve heard that others did,” Kulesha said.

Fortunately no injuries or deaths during Saturday’s earthquake have been reported.

“No one has required the ambulance. I’ve asked people to report back to me if the situation changed, and so far I’ve heard nothing,” Kulesha said on Sunday.

Additionally, there haven’t been reports of any significant damage.

“As far as I’ve been able to determine there’s no major damage. People have lost things off of their shelves and I think some of the stores might have a bit of a clean up to do, but there’s no structural damage that has been reported,” Kulesha said.

According to National Resources Canada, the Oct. 27 earthquake was the second largest in Canadian history, behind 1949’s 8.1 magnitude earthquake that also happened offshore of Haida Gwaii. The third largest Canadian earthquake occurred in 1970, hitting south of Haida Gwaii with a magnitude of 7.4.

Although no major damage or tsunami occurred, response times by provincial officials are being heavily criticized.

Kelli Kryzanowski, the B.C. manager of strategic initiatives for Emergency Management B.C., told CBC she was pleased with the way local governments and individuals reacted to the quake and the tsunami threat.

She said EMBC sent out thousands of phone calls, faxes and e-mails to first responders but was evasive why EMBC’s warning came some 42 minutes after a USGS warning.

Any tsunami that would have developed from the Haida Gwaii earthquake would have already enveloped Prince Rupert in those 42 minutes.

“After these types of events we always do an analysis and have discussion about what will be the best ways to further enhance. So at this point we’re just doing the post mortem on this, figuring, looking at what went well, some of the lessons we can learn, and then those discussions will take place down the road,” Kryzanowski said on CBC.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond also is quoted by CBC saying “overall she’s pleased with the response of emergency officials and local governments, but added that she won’t offer her own assessment of the response until after the review is complete.

Bond also said that at least one government system may have had technical difficulties.”

In Prince Rupert, first responders were very quick to react, however, a number of residents complained that there was no official warning.

“I didn’t even know there was an earthquake until I talked to [his neighbour],” a 5th Ave. West resident said. “I heard nothing, I was sleeping.”

The Northern View was among the first online to alert Prince Rupert to not only the confirmation of the earthquake but also the tsunami warning.

Nearly 10,000 unique visitors logged into www.thenorthernview.com for its coverage and alerts.

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