Millions spent on preparation for next Canadian 'Big One'


Leeanna McLean Digital Reporter

Sunday, April 29, 2018, 3:51 PM

Its' been said a earthquake measuring Magnitude 9 or greater could occur in the next 50 years in British Columbia and the province is spending millions of dollars in anticipation of what experts are calling the 'Big One.

The government is continually working to apply seismic upgrades across B.C. from school renovations to new construction projects being subject to follow updated quake-resistant requirements. 

The province has learned from other jurisdictions on how to properly respond to earthquakes, according to seismic specialist John Sherstobitoff.

"We're doing pretty well," Sherstobitoff told The Canadian Press last year. "We're doing reasonably well for a province that hasn't had a major, damaging earthquake in this generation."


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Residents of B.C.'s South Coast were jolted awake shortly before midnight on December 30, 2015, by a moderately strong earthquake centered near the provincial capital of Victoria. The event was reported as the largest felt in this area in several years, and had locals talking about the next 'Big One'. The Magnitude 4.8 tremor struck approximately 20 km from Victoria on Vancouver Island.

Scientists say there is a one in 10 chance a serious quake could strike in the next 50 years.

"The area of concern is the Cascadia subduction zone where the Juan de Fuca plate is sliding under the North America plate along the Pacific coast of B.C.," said The Weather Network meteorologist Dayna Vettese.

The last time there was a major slip of these plates was in 1700 and there has been little in large-scale events since then, Vettese added. The enormous quake and subsequent four-storey tsunami obliterated the Pacific Northwest coastline.

"This means that the pressure between these plates have been building up since that time and eventually that energy will need to release. Scientists know that this eventually will happen but unfortunately we cannot pin down exactly when."

In a report released in 2013 by the Insurance Bureau of Canada, it is estimated that the economic impact a 9.0-magnitude earthquake would have on B.C. is a shocking $75 billion.

The city of Vancouver is in the process of many earthquake upgrades including replacing about 0.5 per cent of its waters main per year with more stronger ductile iron, assessing 560 municipal buildings for seismic upgrades and spending over $2 billion in provincial funding on either enhancing or replacing 214 of the 342 schools at risk in an earthquake, according to The Canadian Press.

Places like Japan tend to be better prepared with a more enhanced early-warning system, according to Ocean Networks Canada spokesman Teron Moore.

"We tend to put our heads in the sand a little bit," Moore told The Canadian Press.

Japan has approximately 1,000 detection instruments, whereas B.C. has about 100 earthquake sensors both on land and undersea.

More funding and better collaboration between various organizations is needed to improve Canada's capacity to detect quakes, Moore added. 

"Earthquake early warning isn't the solve-all solution for preparedness in British Columbia," Moore told The Canadian Press. "It doesn't stop the shaking from happening. There still will be damage. (But) it does help." 

SOURCE: The Canadian Press 

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