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Stay away from the water, Geological Survey says

Geophysicist claims Howe Sound could see waters rising 0.2 metres



A geophysicist with the Geological Survey of Canada is warning people in the Howe Sound area to stay away from the water today and tomorrow after reports of a massive earthquake in Japan.

Tammy Mulder, a geophysicist with the Geological Survey's office in Sidney, B.C., said it was possible that Howe Sound waters could rise under half a metre as a result of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck at an epicenter 300 kilometres northeast of Tokyo early Friday. The quake produced a tsunami that drew warnings as far away as the west coast of British Columbia.

"We certainly will see something there," Mulder said in an interview. "It might just look like a little rogue wave coming in. There's a possibility it could be larger than that, but the time of concern, I'd just stay away from the waterfront for today."

A small tsunami measuring about 0.2 metres hit Victoria at about 9:50 a.m. so Mulder estimated that whatever's to hit Howe Sound would be smaller.

Waterfronts in Howe Sound don't necessarily face a major threat as a result of the tsunami that has caused major damage in Japanese cities such as Onahama and Sendai. But Mulder said this event provides a good opportunity to prepare for a major earthquake for which the west coast of British Columbia is very due because of tension buildup on tectonic plates beneath the Earth's surface.

"I'd just stay away from the waterfront today," she said "That's really what people ought to be doing, staying away from water and low-lying areas.

"We're far enough away and the amplitude seems to be small enough that at the moment, we're not predicting huge heights and severe damage, nevertheless for all of today, people should be staying away from the water and staying cautious as well."

Doug Hackett, vice-president of information systems and administration for the company that operates a deep water port in Squamish, said waves resulting in the biggest earthquake since the 1995 event in Kobe, Japan would be unlikely to affect the company's operations.

"We monitor through the US Geological Survey and it's only an advisory on the outer coast," he said.

"Whenever we hear of an earthquake, anywhere in the Pacific Basin, we always check the geological survey. Normally they give the hours of expected arrival, what the amplitude would be. We don't just kind of wait, we check as soon as we know there's been any earthquake that could possibly result in a tsunami and then we would plan from there."

Currently it is estimated that 350 people have died as a result of the quake, though the death toll is expected to rise.