50th anniversary of Great Alaskan Earthquake a reminder of earthquake threat

BC auditor general says province unprepared for quake

Fifty years ago this week, the Great Alaskan Earthquake impacted Canada’s west coast triggering a tsunami, causing ground fissures and collapsing structures on Vancouver Island.  The tsunami travelled up a fjord to hit Port Alberni. Lasting just three minutes, the earthquake was the most powerful recorded in recent North American history and the second most powerful ever measured by a seismograph.

The anniversary of this powerful earthquake should be a reminder that British Columbia is in a very significant seismic area and that another earthquake will hit, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

Read: Quake complacency costs

Last October, IBC released the results of a study it commissioned on the impact of two possible major seismic events, one in British Columbia and the other in eastern Canada. The British Columbia scenario anticipated economic losses of $75 billion, including insured losses of $20 billion.

“In the last few years, earthquakes have hit many parts of the world – Chile, Haiti, New Zealand and Japan – with devastating consequences. So far, Canada has been fortunate but we are not immune,” said Bill Adams, IBC’s vice-president, Western and Pacific, in a press release. “The question is not if, but when, the next major quake will happen. If a mega-earthquake strikes a densely populated area, the insurance industry would play a key role in the recovery. That’s why our industry has made preparing Canada for an earthquake one of its strategic priorities.”

Read: Canada not prepared for a major earthquake

Earlier this week, B.C.’s auditor general reported that the provincial government isn’t prepared for a catastrophic earthquake. In a report released Tuesday, auditor Russ Jones says Emergency Management BC has not made earthquake planning a priority.

He says the Office of the Auditor General made similar conclusions about B.C.’s poor state of earthquake preparedness 17 years ago in a previous report, but not much has changed since then.

Jones says successive B.C. governments have decided to dedicate resources to issues they consider more pressing than earthquake preparedness. “In light of this report, IBC is more committed than ever to working with governments and other stakeholders on this very important issue,” states an IBC release.

Read: Insurance industry response to major quakes expedites recovery: report 

“According to Natural Resources Canada, Canada has a 30% chance in the next 50 years of being hit with an earthquake. Our industry agrees that it is time for regional and national conversations on how to prepare for a mega-earthquake. This is why we are pleased with the BC Government’s announcement of a consultation on all aspect of earthquake preparedness” said Adams.

With files from the Canadian Press 

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