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“I was sitting at my desk on my computer and everything just started to move. It was maybe 20 seconds,” said Joan Girbav, manager of Pacific Inn in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. “It’s very scary. I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never felt that.”

The quake was felt on the mainland in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, which is across the Hecate Strait from the islands.

“Everyone felt it here,” said city recreation director Rudy Kelly, who was setting up an evacuation center for people from the city’s low-lying areas. He said the work was in anticipation of a tsunami wave.

Prince Rupert resident Grainne Barthe said fire trucks had blocked access to the waterfront when she came out of a restaurant.

“Everything was moving. It was crazy,” she said. “I’ve felt earthquakes before but this was the biggest. It was nerve wracking. I thought we should be going under a table.”

Residents rushed out of their homes in Tofino, British Columbia on Vancouver Island when the tsunami sirens sounded, but they were allowed to return about two hours after the quake.

Yvett Drews, a resident of Tofino, said she and dozens of others had gathered at the local elementary school where they were told by police that they could return home.

But while on the way home, Drews said she heard the tsunami sirens go off again.

“Well that just freaked me out, hearing the siren and the voice,” she said.

Carsten Ginsburg, a resident on British Columbia’s mainland in Bella Coola, said the quake lasted for about 40 seconds.

“It shook everything. The electricity went out, the power lines were swinging all over the place and stuff was falling off the shelves.”

Ginsburg owns the Float House Inn on the public wharf in Bella Coola and had about six customers celebrating a birthday party.

Canada’s largest earthquake since 1700 was an 8.1 magnitude quake on August 22, 1949 off the coast of British Columbia, according to the Canadian government’s Natural Resources website. It occurred on the Queen Charlotte Fault in what the department called Canada’s equivalent of the San Andreas Fault _ the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates that runs underwater along the west coast of the Haida Gwaii.

Saturday’s quake is the strongest in Canada since 1958 when a 7.9 magnitude quake struck along the B.C.-Alaska border about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northeast of Saturday’s quake, according to the website.

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