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OMG Tsunami?


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VANCOUVER—A tsunami warning was issued late Saturday for British Columbia’s northern coast following a 7.7 magnitude earthquake in the waters off the Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. It was followed by at least two aftershocks.

Dave Martynuik, who lives in the village of Queen Charlotte in the Haida Gwaii, described the quake to the Star by phone.

“We were just sitting down relaxing and all of a sudden — boom! I thought it was a major landslide,” said Martynuik. “The epicentre had to be right close to us because the power went out right away. The quake seemed to last forever.”

Martynuik said he grabbed his sleeping son and they hung onto cabinets and plants as the house shook. His wife and his daughter had already run outside.

“I’m still kind of shaking. It was just pure hell, totally rocked the house,” he said.

Martynuik, who served in the auxiliary Coast Guard, said he talked to someone at the local marina who said the boats were leaping out of the water into air.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued the tsunami warning just before 8 p.m. local time for coastal areas from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Cape Decision, 135 kilometres southeast of Sitka, Alaska.

It warned of a risk of “widespread dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents.”

Just after 9 p.m., the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Centre reported its deep ocean pressure sensor had recorded a “small tsunami.” It gave no further detail.

According to a warning from the Geological Survey of Canada, a low-level tsunami could affect marinas and other coastal infrastructure or create strong currents in harbours and isolated coastal areas in these zones

People in coastal areas were told to move inland to higher ground while residents in low-lying areas were ordered to be on alert for emergency instructions.

Perry Schmunck, the mayor of Tofino, on Vancouver Island, was urging residents of the town to meet at the local community hall. CBC was reporting that some residents of Prince Rupert, which is much closer to the epicentre, had been moved to a city community centre.

The epicentre was reported to be about 40 kilometres south of Sandspit, B.C. at a depth of 17 kilometres.

Natural Resources Canada issued a statement Saturday: “A major earthquake occurred in the Haida Gwaii region. It was felt across much of north-central B.C., including Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Quesnel and Houston. There have been no reports of damage at this time.”

Some people reported feeling the quake as far south as the greater Vancouver area. NDP MLA Mike Farnworth was tweeting that lights in Port Coquitlam were swaying just after 8 p.m.

“We felt the quake,” Farnworth tweeted.

Right after the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey told the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre’s office in Hawaii that “based on all available data a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected and there is no tsunami threat to Hawaii.”

Later it told the mid-Pacific island group that “some coastal areas in Hawaii could experience small non-destructive sea level changes and strong or unusual currents lasting up to several hours.”

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