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B.C. tsunami advisory lifted after underwater volcano erupts in Tonga

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A tsunami advisory, that had been issued for parts of the B.C. coast after an underwater volcano near Tonga in the South Pacific islands erupted on Saturday, has been lifted.

The advisory had covered the north coast including Haida Gwaii, and the central and northeast Vancouver Island coasts, as well as the lower west and southwest coast of Vancouver Island, including Victoria.

According to the advisory, waves were expected to hit Langara Island, a Haida Gwaii island, at 8:30 a.m. local time, followed by Tofino at approximately 8:50 a.m.

Residents of Port Alberni, located at the end of a long, narrow inlet off the west coast of Vancouver Island, were also under an advisory.

“The tsunami advisory is expected to stay in place for many hours. Inundation from a tsunami is not expected…please avoid beaches and marinas,” read a Facebook post by the Port Alberni Fire Department.

In a statement, B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said that several communities had activated emergency plans in response to the advisory, which he said is proof that the province’s early tsunami advisory systems are working.

"To be clear, this is an advisory only, and not a tsunami warning. The risk is limited to increased tidal currents. Until the advisory is lifted, stay away from beaches, shorelines and marinas, and follow the directions of local governments,” Farnworth’s statement reads.

"Emergency Management BC immediately activated the Provincial Emergency Co-ordination Centre, and all provincial regional operations centres on the coast. The agency has also been supporting local governments and First Nations with updates and a series of co-ordination calls.”

Residents in the at-risk, coastal areas were asked to stay away from the shoreline and follow all instructions from local authorities.

Those who were already on the shoreline were urged to get out of the water, off the beach, and to stay away from harbours, marinas, bays and inlets.

Residents were asked not to return to the coast until local emergency officials say it is safe to do so. Residents were also told not go to the shoreline to watch the tsunami waves.

In Tofino, a town known for its long, sweeping beaches, the local district authority temporarily closed all beaches.

“Due to increased risk from changing tides, maximum wave amplitudes and increased response time of coast guard support, all beaches should be avoided until further notice,” reads a post to the District of Tofino’s Facebook page.

Local officials say it was a valuable learning experience, in case “the big one” ever hits.

“For us it’s a great dry-run,” Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel told CTV News.

“We like it when we’re able to test our systems out which we’ve done … This kind of stuff is important to us as west coasters to ensure that we’re prepared and that we’re being notified.”

The advisories came after the underwater Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano violently erupted on Saturday, sending a cloud of ash and steam into the air near Tonga.

The Tonga Meteorological Services said data from the Pacific tsunami center detected waves up to 80 centimetres (2.7 feet) following the eruption.

The eruption also prompted tsunami advisories for New Zealand's North Island and the west coast of the United States from California to Alaska.

With files from The Associated Press 

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