BC Earthquake Response Criticized By Towns

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B.C. towns are criticizing the provincial government for what they call a delayed response to a 7.7-magnitude earthquake on Saturday night.

Tofino Mayor Perry Schmunk says it took the province 45 minutes to deliver information about the earthquake off Haida Gwaii that would have helped the town decide whether to activate its tsunami warning system. Schmunk triggered it anyway, CTV reported.

Three hours passed before the town was told there was no imminent tsunami threat.

"I looked online to see if we could find any more information and quickly came to the conclusion the website was inundated with traffic. I couldn’t get through," Schmunk told the TV network.

The earthquake struck at about 8 p.m. from an epicentre off the coast of Haida Gwaii. Aftershocks followed into Sunday, with one of them registering a magnitude 6.4.

B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond said she was happy with the emergency response despite the delay, adding that one government system may have had technical difficulties but withheld comment until an internal review could be completed.

"We’re going to take a look at the concerns and see how we can be more expeditious in the future," she said.

Officials from B.C.'s emergency management system say they were focused on getting information to communities on the north coast and Haida Gwaii, which were closer to the earthquake's epicentre, the Victoria Times-Colonist reported.

"Our efforts were very much getting information there," Kelli Kryzanowski, manager of strategic initiatives for the province's emergency management system, said.

"You can understand we wanted to focus our attention in the areas where the threat was."

But the story was similar in northern communities. Chris Ashurst, emergency co-ordinator in Tow Hill Road on Haida Gwaii, told the Vancouver Sun there was a delay in receiving emergency information as well.

"The first call I got from the provincial emergency program was an hour at least after the earthquake. We’d already initiated the evacuation," he said.

Esquimalt Coun. Dave Hodgins helped design the province's emergency response system in 2006-07 when he served as fire commissioner. He told the Victoria Times-Colonist it doesn't have the capacity to respond to emergencies quickly.

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