Opinion Column

Effects of the 'big one' tough to imagine 0

Grade 3 and 4 students from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Annex cover their heads and hold on to table legs as they take refuge under a desk during the BC ShakeOut Earthquake Drill in Vancouver, BC. OCT. 20, 2011. The goal of the ShakeOut BC is to get British Columbians prepared for major earthquakes.

Grade 3 and 4 students from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Annex cover their heads and hold on to table legs as they take refuge under a desk during the BC ShakeOut Earthquake Drill in Vancouver, BC. OCT. 20, 2011. The goal of the ShakeOut BC is to get British Columbians prepared for major earthquakes.

Picture the following scenario.

The epicentre of the massive 8.1 magnitude earthquake was deep below the Georgia Straight just east of Nanaimo. It started precisely at 4:05 p.m. on a cold winter afternoon. In a matter of seconds, the lives of millions of people were suddenly turned upside down. But little did we know the real crisis would only begin after the shaking had stopped.

The first 24 hours brought with them exactly what experts had predicted could happen after the mega 7.7 quake struck off the coast of Haida Gwaii in 2012. More than two million people are without power and running water and several natural gas lines have been shut down as a precautionary measure. As a result, many are forced out into the bone-chilling rain using propane barbeques as the only means of cooking a warm meal.

Many of the bridges that survived the monster quake will remain closed pending inspection by structural engineers. Officials say this whole process could take a minimum of two weeks — not including time for repairs.

Local radio newscasts are reporting the ageing Massey Tunnel has filled up with water and large parts of the historic Burrard Bridge are now at the bottom of False Creek. Tens of thousands of vehicles across the region have simply been abandoned and the Trans Canada Highway eerily resembles a parking lot.

Bank machine and debit card systems are rendered inoperable. Merchants who remain open using backup power are posting up signs on their front doors that read “we accept cash only.”

The fact we have more than 20 municipalities co-ordinating emergency response for one large metropolitan area proves to be a weak link. Nobody seems to know which mayor or chief of police should be leading the efforts to keep the peace as several aftershocks continue to fray nerves.

Media reports indicate the E-Comm system is receiving more than 10,000 calls per hour and is on the verge of collapse.

With only sporadic mobile and Internet access available, the use of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook prove useless to share critical information. For days, only those with battery-powered radios are able to connect to the outside world.

While the quake I’ve described has not happened, it’s probably not too far off the reality of what could unfold when the big one does hit. If you and your family are not prepared to handle the aftermath, it’s not like you weren’t warned.

 

 

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