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Deadly Pakistan earthquake a good wake-up call for the west coast, expert says

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Digital writers
theweathernetwork.com

Thursday, September 26, 2013, 7:01 AM -

A Pakistani government official says the death toll from a major earthquake that struck the country's southwest jumped from 39 to 210 overnight.

The magnitude 7.7 quake hit the remote district of Awaran on Tuesday afternoon. 

Officials fully expect the casualty count to rise even higher as rescue teams reach areas hardest hit.

Palistani officials say the Earth moved with enough force to create a small island off the country's southern coast.

Preparing for the "Big One" on the west coast.

The BC coast is Canada's most seismologically active zone, where hundreds of earthquakes are recorded every year. The Weather Network caught up with Dr. Brent Ward, professor of Earth Sciences at Simon Fraser University, to find out how an earthquake similar to Tuesday's in Pakistan would impact British Columbia.

Q: Why was Tuesday's earthquake in Pakistan so destructive?
A: It was only 20 km from the surface and so that means this is a big earthquake and it's close to the surface, so the energy doesn't have as much space to dissipate before it interjects the surface. And that means the ground shaking, which is what causes the damage to the buildings and could trigger landslides, is going to be more intense.

Q: How would an earthquake of the same magnitude affect British Columbia?
A: If we had a 7.7 as close to Vancouver, we would expect a death toll probably in the thousands and damage numbers, probably at least $100 billion.

Q: What causes most of the damage in strong earthquakes like this?
A: The actual shaking of the earthquake, it actually doesn't kill people, it's things like the buildings that collapse on to people that causes the damage, or in some cases, landslides triggered by the earthquake that can kill people. So, having building codes that ensure that the buildings will survive the earthquake is vital. Our building code here now is very robust and the buildings that are built today have a very good likelihood of surviving the earthquake.

Q: Would you say this recent earthquake is a wake-up call to residents on the west coast?
A: These kind of events are a good wake-up call for us here on the west coast. We haven't had a significant earthquake for 60 years or so in an area that's close to where people are. It's good for people to remember that we're in an earthquake hazardous zone and they should have an earthquake kit and a plan of how to get together with family after an earthquake. It's also important to be alert.

Q: Is it only a matter of time until the "Big One" in BC?
A: Here on the coast, we're in a situation where the Juan de Fuca Plate is pushing underneath North America. So, it's pushing underneath, but it's actually stuck and so it's continuing to move and it's actually causing the outer coast of Vancouver Island to bow up a bit and eventually that stress that builds up is going to be released and we'll get movement. It will be very similar to what happened recently in Japan and what happened before in Indonesia. It will trigger a tsunami and we'll have very intense ground shaking over a very large area over the Pacific Northwest and it will probably be an eight point something or even a nine magnitude earthquake.

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