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“We should learn from this wake-up call, but it was a test case of how we haven’t learned the system yet,” he said.

Officials gave bad advice

Many Canadian officials gave bad advice after the Haida Gwaii quake.

They told fishermen to return to port — where waves could have toppled their boats and destroyed ports — instead of telling them to sail farther out to sea where they would have been safer. Many Japanese fishermen stayed far offshore during the massive tsunami last year that devastated vast areas of the country.

Japanese scientists warn that even 3-foot-high tsunamis can wipe out towns and kill people who fall into rushing waters.

Few Canadian officials advised people to turn off gas lines or disconnect propane tanks, despite the danger posed by explosions during earthquakes. Thousands of Japanese died from exploding gas canisters, fuel stations and chemical factories last year and in earthquakes in 1995 in Kobe and 1923 in Tokyo.

Despite the weakness of the official response, Canadians today are more aware of the dangers of living on or near fault lines.

Mr. Clague said provincial governments in Canada have reinforced and braced critical infrastructure in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, and in Vancouver.

The British Columbia hydroelectric company is upgrading dams on Vancouver Island. A grass-roots campaign led officials to upgrade more than 100 older schools in the Vancouver area, and Simon Fraser University is performing a costly seismic upgrade to a gymnasium on campus.

Mr. Clague said architects are designing high-rise buildings with better quake resistance.

He gained a better understanding of the damage earthquakes can cause after he visited Kobe, Japan, where the magnitude 7.1 temblor killed more than 5,000 people, tilted skyscrapers and destroyed more than 110,000 homes.

“I came back with a heightened appreciation for the longer term impacts of an earthquake. Kobe and Vancouver are both beautiful cities in seismically active areas,” he said.

“If it happened there, it could happen here. It could totally alter Vancouver in the long term, and not necessarily for the better.”

Sleepwalking toward disaster

He said a Kobe-scale quake in Vancouver could damage the city’s airport and major ferry terminal, the densely populated downtown and crucial port areas.

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