British Columbia

Tsunami heads for Hawaii after huge B.C. quake

Low-lying areas in the Hawaiian islands have been evacuated following a 7.7-earthquake that struck near Haida Gwaii, off the British Columbia coast, on Saturday night.

No injuries or major damage reported in British Columbia

Visitors and Oahu residents in Honolu watch the water level in Ala Wai Harbour while waiting for the arrival of a tsunami Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, in Honolulu. (Eugene Tanner/Associated Press)


  • 7.7-earthquake struck near Haida Gwaii.
  • No injuries reported.
  • Tsunami warnings, advisories issued on B.C., U.S. coasts.
  • Largest recorded wave at 44 centimetres.

Low-lying areas in the Hawaiian islands have been evacuated following  a 7.7-earthquake that struck near Haida Gwaii, off the British Columbia coast, on Saturday night.

At least three tsunami waves were reported on B.C. coast in the hours following the quake, which struck just after 8 p.m. PT.

The waves have not caused any damage, but there have been evacuations in Haida Gwaii and Port Edward, near Prince Rupert. Officials say it's not clear how many people have been driven from their homes.

"It looks like the damage and the risk are at a very low level," Shirley Bond, British Columbia's minister responsible for emergency management said. "We're certainly grateful."

Kelly Kryzanowski of Emergency Management B.C. said an evacuation centre had been set up on Haida Gwaii.

"Power in some areas is sporadic. There are challenges with telecom. We have not had any reports of damage," Kryzanowski said.

The tsunami warning was downgraded to an advisory at about 11:30 p.m. PT for the North Coast and Haida Gwaii, as well as the Central Coast including Bella Coola, Bella Bella and Shearwater.

Dennis Sinnott of the Canadian Institute of Ocean Science said a 69-centimetre wave was recorded off Langara Island on the northeast tip of Haida Gwaii, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands. The islands are home to about 5,000 people, many of them members of the Haida aboriginal group.

Another 55-centimetre wave hit Winter Harbour on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, while a 12-centimetre wave was recorded in Tofino, on Vancouver Island's west coast.

Tsunami waves are caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, but can be as small as a few centimetres.

"It appears to be settling down," Sinnot said. "It does not mean we won't get another small wave coming through."

Tsunami threat moves to Hawaii

As the tsunami threat diminished in B.C., attention turned to Hawaii, where the first wave is expected to hit at around 1:28 a.m. PT.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency, mobilizing extra safety measures

The CBC's Anu Dawit-Kanna in Waikiki said the streets have been cleared.

"The horns were going off," said Dawit-Kanna. "We have been told to stay in our hotel rooms, and we happen to be on the 14th floor and our hotel is asking everyone to stay above the fourth floor."

She said restaurants are shutting down and police are getting people off the beaches. Guests in the lower floors of at least one beachside hotel are being told to get out if they can.

Public information officer John Cummins said an island-wide and state-wide evacuation was in effect.

"Our streets and highways leaving the area are backed up, so we are working with our first responders to mitigate that as quickly as possible and get our cars inland and away from the hazard and danger area."

The last tsunami siren sounded at 1:00 a.m. PT. Emergency personnel have pulled out of low lying areas and have said anyone who ignored the sirens and chose to stay in affected areas are now on their own. Honolulu police have told people stuck in their vehicles to consider evacuating on foot, as traffic jams are clogging major arteries.

Earthquake felt in cities across B.C.

The quake, which struck just after 8 p.m. PT, was felt across a wide area of north-central B.C., including Prince Rupert, Sandspit and Kitimat, and was felt as far away as Quesnel, Houston and Kamloops. It was followed by multiple aftershocks as high as 5.8 in the following minutes.

It was centred 198 kilometres south-southwest of Prince Rupert at a depth of 10 kilometres, the USGS said.

There have also been reports of people feeling the earthquake as far away as Edmonton, St. Albert and Grande Prairie, Alta. as well as the Yukon.

'It was very fluid, I guess you could say. Everything was moving.'Neil Goodwin, Sandspit, B.C., resident

Natural Resources Canada seismologist John Cassidy said this type of earthquake occurs when two tectonic plates slide against one another, adding it's not the kind that usually causes substantial tsunamis.

Neil Goodwin in Sandspit felt a rolling motion Saturday evening.

"It was very fluid, I guess you could say. Everything was moving. It lasted for at least a good 30 seconds. It was difficult to stand. Definitely there was some damage that was done to people's houses here in town."

He said the whole town evacuated and left for higher ground.

"People are definitely nervous, worried about their homes. I think everyone has got out safely. We practise tsunami evacuation drills quite often here in town, so I guess it's all paid off now."

The quake felt much stronger to Dave Martynuik in Queen Charlotte.

"The whole house was just shaking, pictures on the walls," said Martynuik. "[My son], he was stabilizing the bookshelves —and the windows, everything was just creaking."

"We have two cats and one cat was deliberately throwing herself at the door to get herself out. It was just pure hell there for a while."

Canada's largest earthquake since 1700 was an 8.1 magnitude quake on Aug. 22, 1949 off the B.C. coast of , according to the Natural Resources website. It occurred on the Queen Charlotte Fault in what the department called Canada's equivalent of the San Andreas Fault — the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates that runs underwater along the west coast of  Haida Gwaii.