Could an earthquake hit Quebec?

05 Feb 2016

Did you know that, according to Natural Resources Canada, the risk of a severe earthquake in the Montreal-Quebec-Ottawa region is between 5 and 15%? Did you know that the Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone is one of the most active in eastern Canada? Devastating earthquakes have occurred in the past and will inevitably keep happening in the future.

In 1988, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake occurred 35 km south of Chicoutimi, causing estimated losses of between 10 and 50 million dollars. That earthquake damaged buildings several kilometres from its epicentre. One of the walls of the Quebec City racetrack collapsed. Some hospitals in Lower Town also showed significant cracks. In Montreal, a Shell refinery tower lost some bricks and the Montreal-East City Hall was so severely damaged that it had to be rebuilt. And yet the earthquake happened 300 km away!

Every five days, there is an earthquake in western Quebec. These earthquakes are not generally felt by the population, but the seismic activity is nonetheless significant. This is even more troubling as the urban regions of Montreal and Ottawa-Hull are located in this zone.

Another Canadian zone that we need to keep an eye on is the St. Lawrence Valley, which is located on the Laurentian plate. After the British Columbia coast, it is the most sensitive seismic zone in Canada.

It is worth noting that the City of Montreal was built on this plate.

In Quebec, it is reported that “just 40% of businesses are protected” [1] against earthquakes. Several factors contribute to this number: the unlikelihood of this type of phenomenon in our region and the cost of this insurance appear at the top of the list of reasons why Quebeckers often do not purchase this insurance. Many people also wrongly think that in case of an earthquake, they would receive financial help from the Canadian government. Did you know that the admissible amount of financial aid for business owners covers “75% of admissible damages […] for damages to buildings, not exceeding $200,000” [2]? Additional costs remain the responsibility of the owner.

What about you? Are you in a high-risk area for earthquakes? Click here to find out:

[1] According to Pierre Babinsky, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) in an interview for ChADPresse–Summer 2015



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