Port Alberni to be site of massive 9.0 earthquake, tsunami disaster drill

B.C. stages massive emergency drill on the West Coast

B.C.’s government is spending $1.2 million on a massive earthquake drill to prepare for the real thing, which forecasters say has one-in-three odds of hitting the West Coast in the next 50 years.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Naomi Yamamoto says it’s not a matter of if an earthquake hits, it’s when — and being prepared pays off in a disaster.

“It’s (money) very well spent,” she said. “We know that for every dollar we spend on not just mitigation, but planning, there’s huge return should something actually happen.”

More than 60 different organizations and 600 people are participating in the three-day earthquake drill, including Emergency Management BC, RCMP, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Coast Guard, and local First Nations.

Drill depicts 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami

Yamamoto said a special effects company has been hired to produce real-life disaster scenes, including applying makeup for volunteer actors with mock injuries.

The drill was slated to begin Tuesday at 7:45 a.m. PST with broadcast reports of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hitting off the southwest coast, followed minutes later by an imaginary tsunami heading for Vancouver Island.

The fictitious quake supposedly results from a rupture of underground geological plates in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, amounting to the “Big One” scientists have been forecasting for decades, Yamamoto said.

She said tsunami warning sirens will be activated along the island’s west coast to signal two incoming tsunami waves headed for Port Alberni.

Port Alberni was the site of a devastating tsunami 52 years ago that hit after a magnitude 9.2 earthquake off Alaska.

Two waves gathered force as they raced up the funnel-like Alberni Inlet in March 1964, hitting the city with forces that swept away houses and vehicles, but caused no deaths.

Yamamoto said she recently spoke with a woman from Port Alberni who recalled climbing onto the roof of her family’s home to escape the water in 1964.

She said the drill also involves deployments of Vancouver’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team and a mobile medical unit to Port Alberni.

‘If only we were more prepared’

“This will really test elements of B.C.’s immediate earthquake response plan,” said Yamamoto. “We know we have words on paper, but we need to continue to lead the nation in terms of being prepared for something like this because we are in an area where it’s the highest risk for something like this to happen.”

Scientists in Japan, and Vancouver Island First Nations, have gathered accounts of a huge earthquake and tsunami in January 1700 that wiped out communities and killed thousands of people. A wave the height of a four-storey building hit the east coast of Japan nine hours after the original earthquake off the B.C. coast.

Yamamoto said B.C. emergency officials have travelled to recent earthquake zones at Christchurch, New Zealand and Fukushima, Japan, to review disaster response strategies.

“What we hear over and over again is, ‘If only they were more prepared,'” she said.

The B.C. drill coincides with federal and U.S. government exercises underway along the Pacific coast.

Canadian Armed Forces are also testing their response tactics in an operation called Staunch Maple and Pacific Quake.

Yamamoto said B.C.’s drill will be independently reviewed for gaps and performance by Claude Denver, one of the top emergency management officials in Alaska’s Department of Homeland Security.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

Sooke’s Paul Laroche gold snipes along Sooke River, a process in which he uses a mask and snorkel to find pieces of gold. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Hitting the jackpot: Sooke man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Laroche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Felix Townsin, shown here with his sister, Lexi, who died on Oct. 19, 2019. Felix is a big part of a family initiative aimed at finding a cure for Blau Syndrome. (Photo contributed by the Townsin family)
Quest to cure Blau syndrome a family affair

John Stubbs student produces film for late little sister Lexi

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Newly public Emily Carr painting depicts well-known Victoria view

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

An incident on Sooke Road is slowing traffic Wednesday evening. (Courtesy of Mona Hazeldine)
Sooke Road incident snarls evening traffic

Witnesses report two-vehicle collision

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 27

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Search and Rescue save dog from icy Cowichan River

Search and Rescue’s swiftwater team was called in

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read