The magnitude 6.6 earthquake that struck off the coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island Wednesday is not expected to cause significant damage, but AIR Worldwide says a more powerful quake in the area could be devastating for Canada and the northwestern United States.

No injuries have been reported from the earthquake, and there is no tsunami warning in effect, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center. Two smaller aftershocks of M5.0 and M4.2 were also reported.

AIR does not expect any significant losses from this event because it occurred offshore and near a sparsely populated area of Victoria.

“The earthquake and its aftershocks occurred at the northern or northwestern edge of the Cascadia subduction zone, where the North American Plate meets the Explorer and Juan de Fuca plates,” said Dr. Bingming Shen-Tu, assistant vice president and senior principal scientist at AIR Worldwide.

Some scientists have speculated that for the past three centuries, these plates have been locked together, generating enormous stress within the Cascadia subduction zone. When this stress is released, powerful earthquakes can occur, such as the formidable M9.0 event that struck the region in 1700. According to geological evidence, the Cascadia subduction zone gives rise to such megathrust earthquakes every 300-800 years.

Shen-Tu noted, “A large megathrust earthquake within the Cascadia subduction zone would likely devastate Victoria and Vancouver in British Columbia and seriously damage cities in the northwestern United States, including Seattle and Portland. Such an earthquake might also generate a powerful tsunami that could inundate shorelines along the west coast of North America and cause damage in countries across the Pacific Ocean, such as Japan.”

AIR is continuing to monitor the situation and will provide updates if warranted.

Source: AIR Worldwide