Earthquake warning sensors installed off B.C. coast

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Wed, Jul 27: GLOBAL EXCLUSIVE: The first look at an underwater warning system that will give Metro Vancouver a 90-second warning before "The Big One" hits – Jul 27, 2016

It’s not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when” the big one will strike.

But a new system being installed along the B.C. coast might give residents the warning they need.

The high-tech system involves undersea sensors off the B.C. coast to monitor the Cascadia subduction zone.

The sensors could give as much as 90 seconds warning in case of a major earthquake.

The devices are the size of a toaster encased in glass, which are then buried on the sea floor 80 kilometres off shore.

Each sensor costs about $130,000. Eight sensors will be deployed, and the provincial government is helping fund the project.

READ MORE: BC investing in earthquake early warning systems

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“We’ve provided a five million dollar investment so they can continue to develop an early earthquake warning system for British Columbians,” said Minister of State Preparedness, Naomi Yamamoto.

The first three sensors have already been installed by Ocean Network Canada off the coast of Vancouver Island.

The installation process involved three vessels, a team of 150 people and a trio of undersea robots.

Workers have to use remote underwater vehicles to go as deep as 800 meters, and then lay kilometres of cable back to Port Alberni.

The early tests are in and so far amount of warning time has varied depending on where the ground shakes. But Ocean Network says the more sensors they have, the more accurate and timely the warnings will be.

With files from Aaron McArthur

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