Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998 and 2017. For those of us who call Vancouver Island home, it’s a matter of when, not if, the next tsunami will strike.
On Jan. 26, 1700 one of the world’s largest earthquakes occurred off the west coast of Vancouver Island with an estimated magnitude of 8.7. It collapsed houses of the Cowichan people on Vancouver Island and caused numerous landslides and a tsunami that swept across the Pacific, causing devastation in Japan. These megaquakes tend to occur in cycles along the undersea Cascadia fault off the coast of Vancouver Island, estimated to be between 300 and 700 years.
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In January 2018, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Alaska triggered a tsunami warning for Greater Victoria in the early morning hours, prompting hundreds to call 911. While the tsunami never materialized, residents are advised to have a plan in place.
In the event of a magnitude 9 earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the CRD predicts a tsunami would reach Port Renfrew in approximately 35 minutes with wave heights of up to 11.5 feet (3.5 metres), followed by Sooke Harbour within 60 minutes with waves of over eight feet (2.5 metres) and the Esquimalt and Victoria harbours in 76 minutes with respective wave heights of nearly nine feet (2.7 metres) and eight feet (2.5 metres). It would then reach Cadboro Bay within 90 minutes and Sidney within 110 minutes, with both expected to see waves up to 6.6 feet (two metres).
The CRD considers four metres – 13 feet above sea level – to be a safe distance.
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Tsunami Preparedness Week runs April 11 to 17, as good a time as any to prepare a kit for in the event of an emergency.
The following provisions are recommended as a minimum for the kit:
• Map of area showing an agreed meeting spot in case of separation and the nearest safe shelter
• Family and emergency contact information
• Basic first aid kit
• Water and non perishable food (three to seven day supply)
• Battery powered radio
• Extra batteries
• Medical supplies and medications
• Extra cash
• Personal hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, hand wipes, sanitizer)
• Copies of important personal documents in waterproof container (proof of address, insurance policy in, birth certificate, passports, medication list, deed to home, proof of address)
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