Who in British Columbia is most at risk from a tsunami? An earthquake? My teacher gave a hint: Consider both the landforms where people live and the kinds of structures in which they live and...

Who in British Columbia is most at risk from a tsunami? An earthquake? My teacher gave a hint: Consider both the landforms where people live and the kinds of structures in which they live and work. Thanks for all your help!

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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When -- not if -- a massive earthquake and consequent tsunami strike British Columbia and Northern California, the resulting damages and loss of life will be enormous. The so-called Cascadia Subduction Zone that runs along the Pacific Rim is highly unstable, and the constant pressure of the Juan de Fuca and North American Plates colliding against each other have made the likelihood of a major quake and tsunami inevitable. The December 2004 tsunami that caused enormous devastation across the Pacific, with the Indonesian island of Sumatra as well as the coasts of India, Sri Lanka, and other islands particularly hard-hit, with over 200,000 deaths attributed to the tsunami, serves as a model for what will eventually occur in British Columbia, with the number of dead likely to be considerably lower because of the higher level of technological sophistication available in North America relative to that of the countries most impacted by the 2004 natural disaster. While those numbers will be lower, however, the numbers of dead, injured and missing will still be very high, especially in British Columbia (relative to northern California). Among the reasons for this is the age of much of the region's infrastructure and buildings. Those more aged buildings, as well as bridges, were built before a full appreciation of the threat of a major earthquake was realized. In short, much of British Columbia was built without the advantage of modern technologies and techniques designed to minimize the damage from such occurrences. 

The geography of British Columbia will also be a factor in the scale of devastation likely to result from an earthquake and tsunami. The region's western coast is mountainous, which will serve to lessen inland damage from a tsunami, but those who occupy these coastal regions are certain to suffer greatly. Additionally, the suddenness with which such a catastrophic event will occur will work against the region's population. One recent article, the link to which is provided below, suggests that, "[w]hen the next megathrust quake hits, residents on the west side of Vancouver Island will barely have 20 minutes to get to higher ground."

Those individuals who are fortunate to live and/or work in modern, well-constructed (from the perspective of earthquake readiness) structures will definitely fare better than the multitudes who are not so fortunate. As much of the region's population is concentrated in Vancouver, the chaos associated with attempts at evacuating a major metropolitan area in the midst of a crisis will seriously exacerbate that population's ability to respond, especially given the fact that any warning that a major quake is going to occur would come at very short notice. 

The inevitability of a massive earthquake, and the likelihood of a major tsunami resulting from that quake, should make residents of British Columbia nervous, and more willing to endure the headaches associated with rebuilding older structures so that they are better able to withstand the natural forces against which they will be arrayed.

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