EDITORIAL: Is anybody ready for a quake?

The Auditor General says British Columbia isn’t prepared to cope with a major earthquake.

Then again, is anybody?

Geologists say a mega-thrust earthquake, like the one that killed 131 people in Alaska 50 years ago, occurs about every 600 years along the West Coast.

Other scientists say we have a 12 per cent chance of getting hit by a big quake in the next 50 years.

Such a quake, if it’s accompanied by a tsunami, could cause $75 billion in damage, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

That would devastate the province’s economy, says the Auditor General.

While the government responded by promising to take immediate action to address the Auditor General’s concerns, it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever reach a state of preparedness that will allow scientists to exhale and challenge Mother Nature to bring it on.

No country is better prepared for the “big one” than Japan. After all, it’s been hit by a fifth of the world’s biggest earthquakes.

But when a magnitude-9 earthquake, followed by a huge tidal wave, hit northeast Japan in March, 2011, the country was still caught off guard.

Almost 16,000 people died.

Damage topped $300 billion. A nuclear power plant was damaged.

The lesson to be learned from the Auditor General’s report, and Japan’s experience, is that we can’t rely on government to keep us safe.

We have to assume the worst will happen and do what we can to ensure our own survival and of our loved ones.

When it comes to natural disaster, we can only mitigate the risk.

Not eliminate it.


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