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60th anniversary of BC’s biggest tidal wave highlights safety improvements

It was 60 years ago, on Good Friday, when the biggest tidal wave in BC’s history slammed Vancouver Island.

CBC Newsmagazine aired the story a few days later.

No one in BC was killed in the event, which saw a series of waves funnel up the Alberni inlet, but it did an estimated $5 million in damage, destroying some homes and carrying others  to different locations. The town has had a tsunami warning horn ever since.

The quake which caused the tsunami originated in Prince William Sound and was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in US history, at magnitude 9.2. It killed 32 people in Valdez, when the harbour and docks collapsed, and killed 23 people in the nearby Indigenous village of Chenega.

Today, thanks to satellites and modern technology, tsunamis are much easier to track. The tsunami which caused the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan was tracked real-time across the Pacific to the island’s shores. It did no damage in BC, but prompted provincial, municipal and regional governments to make sure they have emergency plans in place to manage natural disasters.

That includes advice for residents to be prepared.



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