Vancouver Looks to New Zealand to Prepare for Quakes

The Canadian city avoided damage in a strong quake, but wants to be ready for worse

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No major damage is being reported from a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Friday afternoon. The quake triggered aftershocks as large as magnitude 4.9, but no major damage on the long barrier island or in the city of Vancouver was reported. The area also avoided a tsunami, Bloomberg reported.

The quake took place on a secondary fault, not the major Cascadia Subduction Zone, said John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington inSeattle. There was no tsunami because the edges of the fault moved sideways, not up and down, so a major wave wasn’t generated, he said.
“There will be lots of aftershocks, but they’re in a place that aren’t likely to cause a lot of damage,” he said.

But with the city located so close to active Pacific faults, local officials are looking to improve their readiness for a major quake. That includes imitating the protocols used in New Zealand, which Loretta Woodcock, a parks official for the city, was visiting when it was struck by a major quake in February. That quake slammed downtown Christchurch, but Woodcock told CBC News that the response of pre-trained volunteers to the emergency was quick and effective.

“We were five kilometres from the epicentre and one thing I did notice after the earthquake is that volunteers just came out of nowhere,” said Woodcock.
“They had vests on and they were directing people away from bridges and they had radiophones and I thought, ‘This is amazing.’"
Woodcock said the Christchurch volunteers had already been trained and sprang into action spontaneously when the devastating temblor struck the city.

Now, following Christchurch's lead, Vancouver officials plan to store emergency supplies for dislocated residents in public parks and to designate community centers as staging areas for rescue and relief efforts in the event that a major earthquake does hit the region. The list of safe havens didn't have an effect on the city's response on Friday; it hasn't been made public yet.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.