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Do you know what to do if a tsunami hits B.C.? Province issues annual reminder to be prepared

A tsunami hazard zone sign is pictured on Vancouver Island: (CTV News) A tsunami hazard zone sign is pictured on Vancouver Island: (CTV News)
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B.C.’s annual push to get people who live in coastal communities thinking about what to do, where to go and how to respond if a tsunami hits is officially underway.

Tsunami Preparedness Week runs from April 14 to 20 this year and comes just weeks after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake near Taiwan triggered a tsunami risk assessment for the West Coast, according to a bulletin released by the province on Friday.

"Many areas along the coast of B.C. are at risk of tsunamis, which are a series of giant waves that can send surges of water to shore quickly and cause severe damage," said Bowinn Ma, minister of emergency management and climate readiness.

"While it's hard to imagine a tsunami happening, getting prepared now and knowing what to do should one happen can help keep you and your loved ones safe.”

A number of communities are hosting “High Ground Hikes” to inform residents about where to go if a tsunami strikes, what the local risk is, how best to prepare and how to stay informed.

“Most tsunamis are caused by earthquakes that occur under or very near the ocean. People living on the coast in a tsunami zone should drop, cover and hold on when an earthquake occurs and immediately move to higher ground after the shaking stops,” the statement from the province says.

In the event of a tsunami – or when there is risk of one – the provincial government will issue different types of alerts, depending on the severity of the situation:

  • An information statement is issued when there is no threat or when a very distant event occurs that is good to be aware of;
  • A watch is issued when a distant tsunami is possible. People should stay tuned for information and be prepared to act;
  • An advisory is issued when strong currents and waves may occur that could be dangerous to people close to the water. People should stay out of the water and away from beaches and waterways;
  • A warning is issued when dangerous coastal flooding and strong currents are possible. People will be instructed to move to high ground or inland.

The last time a tsunami hit B.C. shores, the province says, was in 1964 following the 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake.

More information on tsunamis and emergency preparedness is available online.

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