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UPDATE 3 — Small tsunami recorded at sea after 7.7 quake off Canada

VANCOUVER (BNO NEWS) -- A powerful and shallow earthquake struck the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia on Saturday evening, generating a small tsunami, seismologists and witnesses said. Tsunami warnings remain in effect for coastlines in Canada and the U.S. state of Alaska.

The 7.7-magnitude earthquake at 8:04 p.m. local time (0304 GMT Sunday) was centered on Moresby Island in the Queen Charlotte Islands, or about 202 kilometers (126 miles) south-southwest of the Canadian port city of Prince Rupert. It struck about 17.5 kilometers (10.9 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The agency estimated some 2,000 people near the epicenter may have experienced "very strong" shaking which could result in moderate to heavy damage while around 18,000 others may have felt "strong" tremors. Computer models showed some damage is possible but the impact is likely to remain localized.

"A major earthquake occurred in the Haida Gwaii region," the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) said on its website. "It was felt across much of north-central BC, including Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Quesnel, and Houston. There have been no reports of damage at this time."

A tsunami warning was quickly issued due to the size of the earthquake, and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center later said a "small tsunami" had been recorded on a deep ocean pressure sensor. As tsunamis grow bigger in shallow waters, warnings remain in effect for the coastal areas of British Columbia and Alaska from the northern tip of Vancouver Island, B.C. to Cape Decision, Alaska.

"Tsunami warnings mean that a tsunami with significant widespread inundation is imminent, expected or occurring," the center said in a bulletin. "Warnings indicate that widespread dangerous coastal flooding accompanied by powerful currents is possible and may continue for several hours after the initial wave arrival."

Environment Canada also issued tsunami warnings for the same region, and the British Columbia Provincial Emergency Program warned people in the region to move to higher ground. "If you are in a low lying coastal area you are at risk and must move to higher ground or inland now," a bulletin said. "Do not return until directed to do so."

The initial earthquake was followed by an aftershock about ten minutes later, at 8:14 p.m. local time (0314 GMT Sunday), according to the USGS. It said the aftershock, which had a preliminary magnitude of 5.8, was centered just off Moresby Island. It struck at a depth of approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

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