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A massive earthquake followed by a powerful tsunami is likely to hit the Pacific Northwest, a new study warns – and it’s expected to kill as many as 10,000 people and cause as much as $32 billion in damages. The new report issued by the Oregon Seismic Safety Policy Advisory Commission says it’s only a matter of time before a devastating mega-quake hits the Pacific Northwest, threatening coastal communities in Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

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The Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011 was a major wake-up call for coastal communities on the West Coast of North America. It prompted the Oregon Legislature to authorize this latest report, which looked at the kind of impact an earthquake and tsunami of the same magnitude would have on Oregon. Geologically, Oregon and Japan are very similar, but the new report found that Japan was actually better prepared for a major earthquake and tsunami that Oregon currently is.

The Cascadia Subduction Zone — a long fault line located off the coast of Washington and Oregon — is what seismic experts are worried about. The volatile, 1,000-kilometer fault caused a major earthquake in 1700, and experts suggest that it will shift again soon. “This earthquake will hit us again,” Kent Yu, an engineer and chairman of the commission, told Oregon lawmakers. “It’s just a matter of how soon.” And when it does hit, it is likely to cause widespread devastation, causing buildings and bridges to collapse in the region, according to the report.

Via Associated Press