This First Particular person article is the expertise of Kristina Jenei, a former Canadian nurse who now lives in New Zealand. For extra details about CBC’s First Particular person tales, please see the FAQ.
I bear in mind waking up in mattress frightened as my condominium tower in downtown Vancouver swayed forwards and backwards. Seems I had simply skilled my first earthquake.
The epicentre of that magnitude-4.8 quake on Dec. 29, 2015, was 20 kilometres north of Victoria and didn’t do a lot injury. Nevertheless, scientists estimate there’s a one-in-five probability British Columbia will expertise a significant earthquake within the subsequent 50 years.
British Columbians reside close to the Cascadia subduction zone, an space the place the Juan de Fuca and North American tectonic plates meet. The issue is that the Juan de Fuca plate is making an attempt to slip beneath the North American one however it’s got caught, locked by friction, and strain is constructing on the fault line.
When the plates lastly do turn into unstuck, it’ll trigger one thing known as a “megathrust earthquake,” which may probably register increased than magnitude 9.0. Solely 5 earthquakes have measured 9.0 or increased since information started.
However, if you’re like me, after the 2015 earthquake you in all probability quickly forgot concerning the “Large One” coming our method.
It wasn’t till shifting to Christchurch, New Zealand, that I noticed how comparatively unprepared Vancouver is for a big earthquake.
Christchurch was decimated by a collection of quakes 10 years in the past that killed 185 individuals. Many of the enterprise district needed to be demolished. The shaking from the quake allowed water to return via the layers within the floor, turning it to fluid in a course of often called liquefaction.
Consequently, an space of Christchurch known as “the Pink Zone,” the place round 10,000 individuals used to reside, is now simply destroyed houses. A lot of Metro Vancouver, from Richmond to Chilliwack, has the similar excessive threat for liquefaction.
Within the 4 months I’ve lived in New Zealand throughout the pandemic, I’ve skilled three earthquakes — fixed reminders that one thing bigger may be across the nook. They have been all extra intense than the earthquakes I had skilled in B.C. Nevertheless, I used to be much less scared as a result of I knew I used to be protected.
In addition they made me notice that the Earthquake Survival Package and 17.5-litre jug of water my diligent Kiwi husband purchased whereas in Vancouver was in all probability the least we ought to have completed.
Earthquake preparedness is a part of the tradition in New Zealand. Quakes come up in on a regular basis dialog and each particular person I do know right here has an emergency plan, which was positively not the case in Vancouver.
Once we moved into our new condominium, our landlord supplied us with a handbook on what to do and the place to go if an earthquake ought to strike.
To deal with the nervousness and worry from earthquakes, children examine a e-book at school known as The Fear Bug. There’s an app extensively utilized by New Zealanders that reveals if shaking has been reported wherever within the nation.
There is a comparable web site in B.C., however the first time I got here throughout it was after I was researching this text.
However in all probability essentially the most notable distinction is New Zealand’s system to make sure buildings are as much as present seismic requirements. Native councils take an energetic and preventative function to determine earthquake-prone buildings primarily based on nationwide seismic threat and pre-specified standards akin to unreinforced masonry and towers constructed previous to 1976.
Constructing house owners, engineering companies and native councils work collaboratively to strengthen or demolish buildings which are deemed unsafe.
Now image the other of this: Vancouver. A latest examine from the College of British Columbia discovered that tall buildings constructed earlier than 1990 have been most in danger in a significant earthquake. There’s a whole lot of these within the metropolis, particularly within the West Finish and Downtown Eastside.
The legislation mandating seismic upgrades in B.C. is unclear. Sure colleges and older buildings are repeatedly being upgraded however the choice appears to be on the discretion of the constructing house owners, not like New Zealand, the place there are clear nationwide constructing codes and steady administration and identification of earthquake-prone buildings.
As a public well being researcher and former registered nurse, I see this as a public well being subject that’s preventable. But little has been completed.
The outcomes of The Large One will probably be catastrophic. There will probably be acute accidents and deaths from the estimated 150 buildings that can collapse on us. Sewage and water methods might fail. Overcrowding will result in communicable ailments. Our hospitals will probably be overwhelmed: common providers will probably be interrupted, workers will not be capable of entry services and medical provides might run out.
As with different crises, the toughest hit will possible be essentially the most susceptible, akin to these housed in single-room occupancy (SRO) motels within the Downtown Eastside.
In accordance with the 1994 “Declan examine,” 98 of the town’s 171 designated SROs got very poor seismic scores. Twenty years later, a followup by Postmedia Information discovered most of these buildings had nonetheless not been upgraded. And it is not simply the DTES. Postmedia’s examination found a whole lot of the town’s buildings recognized as seismic hazards in 1994 lacked upgrades, successfully placing hundreds of individuals at excessive threat.
If you’re now as scared as I’m, know that there are issues we are able to do now to reduce our threat. Individually, we are able to have a plan and emergency tools.
However most significantly, we are able to push our metropolis to take concrete steps to retrofit buildings that don’t meet present requirements — much like what Los Angeles did. We are able to use the chance of subsequent yr’s municipal elections to make sure this can be a precedence.
The teachings from world wide are clear: Act now to guard your residents and keep away from preventable catastrophe.
Do you have got a compelling private story that may convey understanding or assist others? We need to hear from you. This is extra data on the best way to pitch to us at email@example.com.