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Some British Columbians were jolted awake early Wednesday by a moderately strong earthquake.

Earthquake jolts B.C. residents awake, no warnings issued

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 12:02 PM - Residents of British Columbia's South Coast were jolted awake shortly before midnight by a moderately strong earthquake centered near the provincial capital of Victoria. The event is being 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 kilometres from Victoria on Vancouver Island (Earthquakes Canada rated the quake at Magnitude 4.3). There are no reports of damage.

Several people used Twitter to report noticeable shaking and swaying light fixtures, but tremors of that magnitude are typically not considered threatening. It was also measured at a depth of 50 km and there were no tsunami warning issued.

"There are no reports of damage, and none would be expected," Earthquakes Canada says.

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Several hours earlier, a 4.4 magnitude quake struck near San Bernardino, Calif. The USGS reported aftershocks of magnitude 3.8 and 3.2 arrived minutes later, with dozens of tiny aftershocks felt over the next few hours. It's unlikely the B.C. and California quakes were linked, due to each locations being part of different fault lines.

The west coast of North America is one of the most seismically active zones on Earth. B.C. sees numerous earthquakes a year, though usually too weak to be felt. In Canada, the Ottawa Valley also sees tremors, usually weak, like the Magnitude 3.8 quake that struck there in October, and another that hit in November.

The Pacific Northwest, including B.C., was slammed by a Magnitude 9.0 quake in 1700, one of history's largest, that generated a massive tsunami large enough to be detected in Japan. 

That kind of "megathrust" quake is quite rare, but the City of Vancouver says the region has a 1 in 4 chance of experiencing a major earthquake in the next 50 years.

As recently as 2012 a 7.7 Magnitude quake rattled the Haida Gwaii region, and in 1947, the province was the target of one of Canada's deadliest earthquakes.

Bank of Montreal damage in 1946.jpg
"Bank of Montreal damage in 1946" by Unknown - Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Hazard Information Service - Earthquakes Canada: Damage photographs from the M7.3 Vancouver Island Earthquake of 1946. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

That tremor registered Magnitude 7.3 at a depth of around 20 km, with its epicentre near the town of Courtenay.

RELATED: Watch 10 years of earthquakes go by in seconds

The early morning earthquake served as a reminder for the Mayor of Vancouver to tweet out a message about being prepared, and to ensure that residents have supplies and equipment to cover off at least the 72 hour period following the event.

SOURCES: USGC | Earthquakes Canada | City of Vancouver

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