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Ottawa monitors B.C. coast, PM offers condolences to Japan

Seismologists examine the graph of a massive arthquake in Japan at the British Geological Survey office in Edinburgh on March 11, 2011.


Federal government officials say they are closely watching British Columbia's coasts to determine the effects of the anticipated tsunami after a massive earthquake in Japan.

"Local first responders and municipal and provincial officials are responsible for addressing the immediate needs of citizens in any potentially affected areas," Dimitri Soudas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, said in a statement early Friday.

The office of Vic Toews, the federal Public Safety Minister, echoed those words.

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Although it does not seem that the Canadian West Coast will suffer much damage from Friday's event, Mr. Harper was asked during an event in Guelph, Ont. if Canada is prepared for a major catastrophe like an earthquake or a tsunami.

"My understanding is there are good emergency plans in place, particularly in that part of the country for this particular type of event," he told reporters.

"I am told by people who have lived on the West Coast that there are tsunami plans and there are regular exercises to test those out. It does look like as if the worst has passed but, as I say, all local authorities have been on notice and prepared in the next few hours should there be any problems."

Mr. Soudas said the government is monitoring the potential effects through the Government Operations Centre, which provides regular updates to development and is in contact with authorities in the West Coast.

The Prime Minister and his wife Laureen Harper send their heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people, Mr. Soudas said. "Their thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families who have lost their loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis."

Mr. Harper also called the Japanese Ambassador to Canada to offer condolences directly. Canada, he said, will stand by the people of Japan during this difficult moment.

Federal officials will work with their B.C. counterparts to identify areas of potential federal assistance and resources.

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Waves of up to one metre are expected to hit the affected areas in British Columbia and create strong currents in harbours and some coastal areas, but there are no mandatory evacuations and no expectations of significant damage.

The Foreign Affairs department says its embassy in Tokyo is working closely with local authorities and is ready to provide consular assistance to Canadians as required. Canadians who believe they have friends or family who may be affected to call the department at 613-943-1055, or toll free within Canada at 1-800-387-3124.

With a report from Wendy Stueck in Vancouver

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