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No tsunami threat in B.C. after 8.2-magnitude earthquake in Alaska

'My house was shaking'
Approximate location of the 8.2 magnitude earthquake on July 28, 2021.

A powerful earthquake that shook the Alaska Peninsula Wednesday night triggered tsunami warnings across the Pacific and sent some B.C. residents fleeing for higher ground. 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake was magnitude 8.2 and hit nearly 800 kilometres southwest of Anchorage, Alaska at about 11:15 p.m. Pacific Wednesday. The quake was about 32 kilometres below the surface of the ocean, according to USGS.

Emergency Management BC did not issue a tsunami warning but Ellis Ross, who represents the riding of Skeena in the B.C. Legislature, lives in Kitamaat Village on B.C.'s north coast and says residents were ordered to higher ground. 

He says that's the emergency plan for the community regardless of provincial advisories. Everyone moved to the bench above the village for several hours until Emergency Management BC confirmed a damaging wave would not occur. 

Kathryn Forge, executive director planning and risk reduction for EMBC, said the province had its Alert Ready system on standby, but that at no time, was the province under a tsunami warning.

A positive: "It does demonstrate that coastal warning systems do work," said Forge. 

There have been no immediate reports of serious damage in Alaska or B.C. but Natural Resources Canada seismologist John Cassidy says in a social media post that shaking was recorded on Vancouver Island.

"My house was shaking (ever so slightly) for more than an hour last night," he wrote in a tweet.

The U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center cancelled the warnings early Thursday when the biggest wave, of just over a half foot, was recorded in Old Harbor on Kodiak Island. A tsunami warning that had also been issued for Hawaii was also cancelled, and officials said there was no threat to Guam, American Samoa or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

The geological survey website shows people living as far away as Washington state and Oregon also reported feeling the ground move.

The earthquake, which was followed by several aftershocks, sits on the same subduction zone as the 9.2-magnitude earthquake that rocked Anchorage in 1964. Lasting four minutes, the quake killed 143 people, and was the second-largest ever recorded by modern instruments.

With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press