No evacuations in Sooke Region after tsunami warning

Biggest issue? People panicking prematurely, fire chief says

A tsunami warning issued following a 7.9 earthquake in Alaska early Tuesday resulted in no evacuations in the Sooke Region, officials say.

The warning was issued shortly after 1:30 a.m., and Emergency B.C. was warning anyone in the affected areas to evacuate, which included the Juan de Fuca Strait coast, the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, the central coast and northeast Vancouver Island, and the north coast and Haida Gwaii..

However, at 4:30 a.m., an urgent message from Emergency Management B.C. stated that all warnings for coastal B.C. had been cancelled.

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Sooke Fire Chief Kenn Mount said the local emergency operations centre , the fire department, RCMP, and amateur radio operators were notified about 30 minutes after the warning was issued.

“The response was excellent from our fire department,” Mount said, adding 26 personnel answered the call out.

The biggest issue throughout the night was people panicking prematurely and “non-credible” information getting out through social media, he said.

The situation tenuous throughout the night as a car fire was reported on Connie Road and fire alarms sounded in an apartment complex.

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The fire department responded to five key areas in Sooke: Kaltasin, Whiffin Spit, West Coast Road and Coopers Cove. Residents were asked to stay away from beaches and marine infrastructure.

“Our presence was well respected out in the community once we had units out there just to provide information with what we were doing,” Mount said.

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No evacuation orders were issued in key areas of the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, said Capital Regional District director Mike Hicks, but there was an unconfirmed report of an evacuation order in East Sooke.

Last year Port Renfrew’s capability to transmit early warnings of a possible tsunami was bolstered with a new high-tech system. The tsunami sirens were not used for this incident, Hicks said.

But the amount of calls CRD officials received due to tsunami fears has convinced Hicks that the next time a warning is issued by B.C. Emergency, the system will be initiated and evacuations are likely to occur.

In other areas of the Island, residents in low-lying areas received evacuation notices, including those living in Colwood, Esquimalt, Saanich, Viw Royal, Port Alberni and Tofino, until the tsunami warning was lifted.

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