10-metre steel tsunami tower at Haida Gwaii school will mark a first in Canada
Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay Secondary school in Masset, Haida Gwaii.
VANCOUVER -- Students in Haida Gwaii’s Masset village will soon have Canada's first-ever tsunami evacuation tower, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Education.
The Haida Gwaii islands, located off of the north coast of B.C., are in a high-risk earthquake and tsunami zone. The tower will be built as part of earthquake safety updates to the local high school.
Parents say it will be a welcomed alternative to the village’s current tsunami safety area, which is a 10 kilometre drive away.
“A tsunami evacuation tower on the grounds of our local school will ultimately reduce the time it takes to evacuate from the current 20 minutes or more to the time it takes to walk across the road,” said local parent Keshia Chutter in a news statement.
“As a mother who has had to evacuate her family multiple times over the past eight years, I can tell you it is frightening and beyond stressful,” said Chutter, who is a member of the Haida Gwaii School District Parent Advisory Committee.
The islands sit close to the Queen Charlotte Fault line, which is where the Pacific tectonic plate and North American plate meet.
According to the Ministry of Education, construction on the school and the 10-metre-tall steel tower is set to begin summer 2021, and to be completed in the fall of 2022. The tower will also include storage for emergency supplies.
Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said she “can't wait to see this one-of-a-kind project completed to protect the health and safety of the school community."
As part of a nearly $17 million upgrade project, Gudangaay Tlaat'sa Naay Secondary school will be transformed into a space that serves students from kindergarten to Grade 12 and the tsunami tower will be built on the grounds. The B.C. government is contributing $16.5 million and the Haida Gwaii Board of Education is providing $250,000.
“During an evacuation, time is precious. All parents, staff and community members can agree that the safety of our children is of the utmost importance. This tsunami evacuation tower will provide a safe location for our children to gather during an evacuation and help ease the minds of many families," Chutter said in the statement.