Magnitude 7.7 quake strikes off western Canada

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (AP) - A magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off the west coast of Canada and a tsunami warning was issued, authorities said, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit the Queen Charlotte Islands just after 8 p.m. local time Saturday at a depth of about 3 miles (5 kilometers) and was centered 96 miles (155 kilometers) south of Masset, British Columbia. It was one of the biggest earthquakes around Canada in decades and was felt across a wide area around British Columbia.

The National Weather Service issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas of British Columbia, southern Alaska and Hawaii. The first wave of the small tsunami, about 4 inches (101.6 millimeters), hit the southeast Alaska coastal community of Craig.

Dennis Sinnott of the Canadian Institute of Ocean Science said a 69 centimeter (27 inch) wave was recorded off Langara Island on the northeast tip of Haida Gwaii, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands. Another 55 centimeter (21 inch) wave hit Winter Harbour on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.

“It appears to be settling down,” he said. “It does not mean we won’t get another small wave coming through.”

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center originally said there was no threat to the islands of Hawaii, but a warning was issued later Saturday and remains in effect until 7 p.m. Sunday. A small craft advisory is in effect until Sunday morning. The center says the first tsunami wave could hit the islands by about 10:30 p.m. local time.

The USGS said the 7.7 magnitude temblor shook the waters around British Columbia and was followed by a 5.8 magnitude aftershock several minutes later. Several other aftershocks were reported.

The U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska said it was trying to warn everyone with a boat on the water to prepare for a potential tsunami.

Lt. Bernard Auth of the Juneau Command Center said the Coast Guard was working with local authorities to alert people in coastal towns to take precautions.

The quake struck 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Sandspit, British Columbia, on the Haida Gwaii archipelago, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. People in coastal areas were advised to move to higher ground.

Urs Thomas, operator of the Golden Spruce hotel in Port Clements said there was no warning before everything began moving inside and outside the hotel. He said it lasted about three minutes.

“It was a pretty good shock,” Thomas, 59, said. “I looked at my boat outside. It was rocking. Everything was moving. My truck was moving.”

After the initial jolt, Thomas began to check the hotel.

“The fixtures and everything were still swinging,” he said. “I had some picture frames coming down.”

Natural Resources Canada said in a statement that a major earthquake was felt across much of north and central British Columbia but that there were no immediate reports of damage. PrayForCanada became a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

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