British Columbia Earthquake Causes Minor Damage, Triggers Tsunami Warning

October 28, 2012

A powerful M7.7 earthquake struck British Columbia’s north-central coast on Saturday, Oct. 27, with shaking felts far away as Edmonton and Yukon.

The United States Geological Survey said that the earthquake, which struck at a depth of 17.5 kilometers, occurred at 8:04 p.m. local time 139 km south of Masset, British Columbia. At least 10 aftershocks have been recorded, the largest of which was M6.3.

According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, given that the earthquake occurred in a sparsely populated stretch of the Canadian coast, significant insured losses are not expected.

According to AIR, the quake also triggered tsunami warnings from the Washington border to Vancouver Island and as far away as Hawaii. At least 100,000 fled to higher ground along Hawaii’s coast late on Saturday but the evacuation order was later cancelled. A wave of five feet has been recorded near Maui.

Catastrophe modeling firm Risk Management Solutions (RMS) said that while the level of shaking experienced in this earthquake was significant enough to cause damage, preliminary reports indicate only minor damage. Citizens in communities in Haida Gwaii have reported broken dishes and short-term power outages. The Port of Prince Rupert shut down as a precaution. Currently, no injuries have been reported as a result of this earthquake.

Buildings near the epicenter shook for about 40 seconds. Ground shaking caused power disruptions and toppled residential contents—televisions, dishes, and the like.

According to AIR, the epicenter was along the Queen Charlotte fault. The Queen Charlotte and Fairweather Faults are part of a fault system that marks the eastern boundary of the Pacific plate and the western boundary of the North American plate. The Pacific plate moves in a northwestward direction relative to the North American plate, creating a transform boundary—the name of two plates that move horizontally in opposite directions. The fault associated with a transform boundary is a strike-slip fault. The Queen Charlotte and Fairweather faults are very similar to some of the most well-known strike-slip faults in the world, including California’s San Andreas Fault system. A number of major earthquakes have been linked to the Queen Charlotte-Fairweather fault system in the last century including in 1949 and 1970, AIR said.

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