A major earthquake in B.C. is not a matter of if

According to the Geological Survey of Canada, southwestern B.C. is at high risk with a 30 per cent chance of a significant earthquake

In the past couple of weeks, there were four earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest of a magnitude 4.0 or greater. From October 1st to November 1st, there were 84 quakes recorded in southwestern B.C including three shimmers in the Abbotsford/Chilliwack area. OK, so they weren’t much – 2 pointers on the magnitude scale.

The ground beneath our feet is constantly shaking and jostling, so much so that it was in the sights of the Insurance Bureau of Canada when they designed two scenarios to predict the economic consequences of a future great quake, one on the west coast of Vancouver Island and Washington State and the other in the Quebec/Ontario region which is also a seismic zone.

Last week IBC released its 345-page report, billed as the most comprehensive study of its kind in Canada. The hypothetical scenario on the west coast was a 9.0 quake 75 km west of Vancouver Island at a depth of 11 km. The cost? Some $75 billion.

The last earthquake impact study in Canada was done in 1992 by Munich Re based in Germany, one of the world’s leading re-insurers. IBC wanted a comprehensive up-to-date look at the financial consequences of a major quake in Canada, especially in light of events around the world in the past decade and the pressing need for preparedness for catastrophic events.

Recent devastating earthquakes affecting populated and wide reaching areas include the Indonesian great quake in 2004 at magnitude 9.1 which triggered the tsunami that killed over 280,000 people, Japan (M9.0 in 2011), Chile (M8.8 in 2010), New Zealand (M7.0 in 2010), and Turkey (M7.1 in 2011). In 2012 there was the M7.7 earthquake off Haida Gwaii in October and the Banda Sea (M7.1) in December as well as earthquakes in Guatemala and Myanmar. Globally in 2013 there have been 15 earthquakes of a magnitude 7.0 or more.

Are we ready for this?

According to IBC’s report, Canada records about 4,000 earthquakes annually. The majority of them are small and unfelt but about 24 are significant and they are concentrated in the two study areas of B.C.’s west coast and southern Quebec/southeastern Ontario. But these two relatively small targeted geographical zones actually represent 40 per cent of the nation’s population, making them strategically and economically very important.

In the face of a major quake (magnitude 7.0-7.9) or great quake (magnitude 8.0 or more) in the Pacific Northwest, life as we know it would profoundly change. Buildings, roads, bridges, airports, seaports, power stations, hospitals, pipelines (both those carrying water or oil), buried services, transmission towers and communications, and mass transit systems are all at risk of damage or destruction.

Thousands of people are at risk of being killed, displaced or isolated. A tsunami off the west coast of Vancouver Island could re-arrange the coastline, threatening the survival of communities like Ucluelet or Tofino.

There are the destructive consequences of liquefaction in Delta, Richmond, and other sea-level reclaimed areas. The risk of flooding would affect cities, towns, coastlines, rivers and their tributaries. Hillside structures would be at risk of landslides. Fires could be hard to contain if fire fighters are unable to reach them due to road damage or a water supply for their hoses has collapsed. The initial quake would be followed by thousands of aftershocks that would add to the damage and persist for weeks, months or perhaps a year.

No wonder the report pegged the potential economic destruction at $75 billion.

According to the Geological Survey of Canada, southwestern B.C. is especially at high risk with a 30 per cent chance of a significant earthquake delivering substantial damage in the next 30 years.

It’s time to get prepared for this.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

A protester holds a sign on Yale Road near Hodgins Avenue during the Fraser Valley Freedom Rally on Saturday, April 3, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
OPINION: Freedom, yes, but don’t forget about responsibility

‘Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being’

A man holds a child while speaking with RCMP following an erratic driving incident on Highway 1 in Chilliwack on Friday, April 16, 2021. The child and a woman (but not this man) were in this Jeep Grand Cherokee which hit a barrier and a parked car on Highway 1 and continued driving. The vehicle finally exited the highway at Yale Road West and came to a stop. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Video captures woman driving erratically with child after hitting barrier, car on Hwy 1 in Chilliwack

Smoke seen coming from SUV as it continues to travel eastbound of shoulder of highway

An undated picture of the Hope Station House. (Photo/Save The Hope Station House)
Hope council must consider all options for Station House: B.C. Ombudsperson

Investigation ‘revealed flaws in District’s process,’ statement said

April 16, 2021 is the 130th anniversary of the first edition of The Chilliwack Progress, the oldest community newspaper in British Columbia. The first four-page Progress was printed on April 16, 1891.
PHOTO GALLERY: Today is the 130th anniversary of The Chilliwack Progress

British Columbia’s oldest community newspaper’s first edition was April 16, 1891

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Former Pitt Meadows city councillor David Murray was convicted of sex assault, and is now being sued by the victim. (files)
Former Pitt Meadows city councillor sued for sex assault

David Murray was convicted in 2017 of sexually assaulting a teen 25 years earlier

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Most Read