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Earthquake off Island coast shakes variety of B.C. cities

Darrell Bellaart, Daily News, September 10, 2011

Nanaimo's McGirr Elementary was temporarily evacuated on Friday afternoon

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake off the west coast of Vancouver Island at 12: 41 p.m. on Friday shook Metro Vancouver and other parts of the province.

Some felt the earthquake in Nanaimo, especially in the north end. It also seemed to be more noticeable in the ParksvilleQualicum area.

There have been no reports of damage or injuries resulting from the earthquake, whose epicentre was located 135 kilometres south-southeast of the town of Port Hardy on the island, the U.S. Geological Survey said in its assessment.

At least one Nanaimo elementary school was temporarily evacuated, and some at the Regional District of Nanaimo staff members followed emergency procedures when the shaking hit.

The motion caused a nauseous feeling for McGirr Elementary School vice-principal Tanya Peace.

"I thought maybe I needed something to eat," Peace said. "We just felt like a wave, almost a tremor."

She believes her class felt the motion "because we were sitting in a quiet room." Others in the gym didn't notice it.

After confirming an earthquake they put their evacuation plan into affect.

"The kids were so quiet and well behaved, they followed everything exactly. It was amazing."

Employees working in the older, original part of the RDN office on Hammond Bay Road, felt the motion and went under their desks.

"Several people felt it in the older, middle part of the building, upstairs and in our recreation centre in Qualicum Beach - it was felt a lot in Parksville," said Jani Drew, RDN emergency co-ordinator.

"Some people remembered from the last shakeout drill to duck, cover and hold on."

Some staff reported feeling the motion at city hall, but the city's emergency program only kicks in when injuries or damages are involved.

But Karen Lindsay, emergency preparedness manager said residents shouldn't count on the city to help in a major quake.

"We don't have a lot of resources, so we'll be putting out fires and looking after critical injuries. We will be absolutely stretched," Lindsay said. "Will we deliver food and water? Absolutely not. We say be prepared for a minimum of 36 hours. Realistically, more like seven days."

Every major earthquake sparks calls from homeowners hoping to add quake insurance to their policies. But insurance underwriters often put a halt on taking on new policies in such circumstances.

"They never think it will happen, then when it does (people apply)," said Courtenay Geddes, with Western Financial.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has said there were no injuries or damage to its facilities, but a ferry terminal in Courtenay was evacuated.

The USGS reported it was at a depth of 23 kilometres, revising its original assessment that it was only two kilometres below the surface.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue a warning, saying there was "no destructive widespread tsunami threat."

There were no immediate signs of damage in downtown Vancouver. In the Vancouver Sun newsroom, lights swayed for a halfminute when the quake struck.

The largest quake in recent memory was the 6.8-magnitude Nisqually earthquake southwest of Seattle in February 2001.

Only the ninth earthquake in this area in 125 years measuring over magnitude 6, it cracked the dome of the Capitol building in Olympia, damaged the control tower at Sea-Tac airport and shook bricks off chimneys in Victoria.

A small earthquake hit the northern end of Vancouver Island in March, causing no significant damage.


© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2011


Reference material on earthquakes and the proposed Raven mine is available in the DOCs section, here.