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  • Alexandra Marinescu
    The Big One stalks Vancouver CAROLINE ALPHONSO AND ROBERT MATAS With reports from Canadian Press Thursday, March 1, 2001 VANCOUVER -- British Columbia
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2001
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      The Big One stalks Vancouver

      CAROLINE ALPHONSO AND ROBERT MATAS
      With reports from Canadian Press
      Thursday, March 1, 2001

      VANCOUVER -- British Columbia residents got a
      preview of the
      big one yesterday.

      The earth shook and walls trembled in what was
      an eerie
      reminder of a giant quake that's some day
      expected to rock the
      Pacific Coast when two of the Earth's plates
      converge.

      Yesterday's rumble -- resulting from the most
      powerful quake to
      hit the region in more than 50 years -- is a
      wake-up call for
      residents who live with the constant threat of
      a major
      earthquake.

      Emergency officials, who were inundated with
      calls, say they are
      ready for whatever disaster strikes.

      "I think we were more prepared than we were a
      year ago," said
      Bob Bugslag, deputy director of the provincial
      emergency
      program. "We still have a long ways to go
      though."

      Coincidentally, when the earthquake hit, a
      group of emergency
      personnel was meeting to plan an exercise
      session for today.

      Recent earthquakes in other parts of the world,
      such as India
      and El Salvador, have drawn the attention of
      B.C. residents and
      driven them to get the answers they need in
      case a quake hits
      at home, Mr. Bugslag said.

      Yesterday's earthquake, centred 60 kilometres
      south of Seattle
      near Olympia, had a magnitude of 6.8 and shook
      most of
      Southern British Columbia.

      The tremor, which seemed to last only a few
      seconds, felt like a
      gentle shaking in downtown Vancouver and a
      forceful rattle in
      the suburbs. It was felt as far east as Trail
      in Southeastern B.C.
      Residents, who are used to minor tremors, said
      it was the most
      powerful they have experienced.

      Cheri Caleb, who works on the eighth floor of a
      building in
      downtown Vancouver, said one of her co-workers
      screamed and
      two others dived under their desks when the
      shaking started.

      "The plants were moving, the blinds were
      swinging back and
      forth and there was a rolling feeling," Ms.
      Caleb said. "It was
      weird because the building was moving. You
      suddenly realize,
      'Oh my gosh, I'm just not prepared for this.' "

      Unlike Seattle -- where there were fallen
      bricks, widespread
      power outages, one death and major injuries --
      no casualties or
      significant damages were reported in British
      Columbia.

      "It was a surprise, but it's keeping us aware
      that earthquakes
      happen," said Carlos Ventura, a professor and
      the director of the
      earthquake engineering research facility at the
      University of
      British Columbia. "We're not entirely safe from
      earthquakes.
      They can happen at any moment."

      The tremor was not enough to destroy any
      buildings in
      Vancouver. Although most newer ones comply with
      seismic
      provisions in building codes, many buildings in
      the Vancouver
      area predate the codes, and are not necessarily
      equipped to
      withstand an earthquake.

      Many British Columbians, who have lived for
      years with
      earthquake preparedness tests, took the tremor
      in stride.

      "There was no panic in the street," government
      lawyer Geoffrey
      Gaul said. He was in his ninth-floor office in
      downtown Victoria
      and headed down the stairs when a door started
      swinging. "That
      was enough for me."

      Prof. Ventura said residents should be aware
      that there may be
      aftershocks in the next 48 hours.

      The very things that attract people to British
      Columbia, such as
      the scenic mountains that backdrop the Pacific
      coast, are
      geological indicators of an active earthquake
      zone.

      The earthquake, which struck just before 11
      a.m. Pacific time,
      originated in the Juan de Fuca plate, just
      southeast of Victoria
      under the Pacific Ocean.

      That is where two geological plates -- the
      North American plate
      and the Juan de Fuca plate -- rub up against
      each other, causing
      hundreds of minor earthquakes each year along
      the Pacific
      Northwest coast.

      The pressure is building as the Juan de Fuca
      plate continues its
      slide underneath the North American plate.
      Eventually, this
      pressure will cause a major quake, called a
      subduction
      earthquake, which Prof. Ventura said could be
      as high as 9 in
      magnitude. These huge earthquakes happen every
      200 to 600
      years. The last subduction earthquake in the
      area was in 1700.
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