Earthquake in Turkey underscores risks and responsibilities for British Columbians

Earthquake in Turkey underscores risks and responsibilities for British Columbians

Similarities and differences in Turkey quake and what’s expected in B.C.

The devastating earthquake and aftershocks that rocked southeastern Turkey and northern Syria Monday has, for many, underlined the risks and dangers of a major earthquake hitting British Columbia.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake toppled hundreds of buildings and killed thousands of people, the toll expected to rise as rescue workers search mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area.

Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines and frequently experiences earthquakes, although Monday’s was one of the biggest in at least a century.

CBC seismologist Johanna Wagstaffe says Monday’s massive quake happened after two tectonic plates became locked.

 “That’s an area of the world where we have seismic gaps,” said Wagstaffe. “Basically, where we know we have locked sections of big faults that are waiting to go.”

She says there are similarities and differences in the type of earthquakes that struck Turkey and northern Syria — and the type expected to hit British Columbia.

“It’s the fact that we, too, are in this seismic gap,” Wagstaffe explained. “The Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of Vancouver Island is an area where two plates have become locked.”

The Cascadia subduction zone is a 1,000-kilometre fault that runs from northern Vancouver Island to northern California. The fault itself is a boundary between two tectonic plates: the Juan de Fuca and the North American plate.

The Juan de Fuca tectonic plate is being forced underneath the North American plate. The energy from that movement is being stored up inside the rocks, waiting for the moment it will be released as a catastrophic megathrust earthquake — also known as “The Big One.”

Turkey’s earthquake was due to a transform fault, or side-to-side quake, where two tectonic plates slide past each other horizontally.

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