If B.C. were hit by a major earthquake, Nanaimo's waterfront structures would derail, topple and extensively crack, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
A report released Tuesday by IBC and AIR International says Nanaimo would be "hit hard" by an earthquake and the port could be out of use for "many months."
The findings are based on a scientific study using a hypothetical yet realistic scenario where a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hits off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The report measures the potential economic losses for both East and West Coast quakes, which are estimated at $75 billion for the B.C. seismic zone.
IBC boasts the study to be the most comprehensive of its kind ever done for Canada.
IBC president Don Forgeron said the study shows that Canada is not prepared to handle a major earthquake.
"Insurers, governments and all Canadians have a responsibility to prepare," he said. According to IBC, there is a 30 per cent chance an earthquake strong enough to cause significant damage will strike the West Coast in the next 50 years.
The report explains how a major earthquake would demolish Nanaimo's waterfront.
"Nanaimo, on the east coast of the Island, will be hit hard by shaking and the tsunami inundation," the report reads. "The extent of damage expected is so large that the port may be out of use for many months."
It continues to describe how tsunami inundation would cause significant damage to waterfront equipment and facilities: a failure of piles, extensive sliding of piers, derailment or toppling of cranes and significant ground settlement causing extensive cracking of pavements in waterfront structures.
Moderate damage is expected for most other Vancouver Island cities outlined in the report.
Karen Lindsay, emergency program manager for the City of Nanaimo, said the city has an emergency response and recovery plan and seismic is one of the top hazards it prepares for.
"We take this very seriously," she said. "I think it's safe to say that no municipality or city anywhere could prepare fully, but we would do the very best we could with the resources we have."
Lindsay added that individual preparedness is vital, as well.
Bernie Dumas, president of the Nanaimo Port Authority, said the Port of Nanaimo is well equipped for a disaster, although insurance companies are "a bit awkward" about what they will and will not cover.
He said the NPA has been in talks with the city, the fire department and other ports about what could be done during a potential disaster.
Emergency communication lines have been established and the building at the cruiseship terminal is built to be used as an emergency response facility, he said.
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