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Monster earthquake still stalks Vancouver

Jim Morris

By Jim Morris, 24 hours

Wait continues for monster earthquake to strike Vancouver (CARMINE MARINELLI)

Wait continues for monster earthquake to strike Vancouver (CARMINE MARINELLI)

The earthquake that violently shook the Haida Gwaii area Saturday night was one of the biggest in Canadian history, but an even larger, more deadly one is still lurking, experts agree.

"This was not the big one,'' Alison Bird, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, said Sunday.

The earthquake which frightened residents along B.C.'s north-central coast measured 7.7, Bird said. That makes it the second largest to hit Canada since 1949 when a 8.1-magnitude quake rocked the same area.

This weekend's quake occurred along the Queen Charlotte Islands fault. A more deadly earthquake will be generated by the Juan de Fuca plate, which stretches for 1,000 kilometres along the west coast of Vancouver Island, Washington State, Oregon and northern California.

Brent Ward, an earth scientist at Simon Fraser University, said when the big one strikes it will measure in the 9.0 range.

"Which is considerably bigger and would affect a huge geographical area right along the coast,'' said Ward.

"It would be very similar to the Japanese earthquake that affected a fairly large area and triggered a tsunami.''

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 megathrust off the Oshika Peninsula created a tsunami with 10-metre waves. Thousands of people died and damage was estimated at over $300 billion. Debris from the disaster is still washing up on the B.C. shore.

No one was injured in Saturday's earthquake but Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said it was "too close to home.''

"A real focus needs to happen for residents and businesses to be ready for the big one,'' Robertson told reporters. ''This was a real warning, definitely a wake-up call for everyone across Vancouver.''

To deal with an earthquake, the city has assembled the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team, which has 120 members with medical, fire fighting, emergency response, search and rescue, and engineering backgrounds. Six emergency response stations would spring up across the city, and staff have been trained in how to deal with a disaster.

Jackie Kloosterboer, an emergency planner, said residents should prepare a kit which contains food, water and extra clothing.

"After an earthquake you will be on your own for several days,'' said Kloosterboer. "You need to get your plans in place before the earthquake happens.

"Once it happens, it's too late.''

Bird said aftershocks in the 6.2 range were recorded in the Haida Gwaii area Sunday.

"We are seeing numerous ones every hour,'' said Bird. "These will be going on for weeks.''

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