Canadian military trains to respond to Arctic earthquake

Canadian Armed Forces members await take-off onboard a CC-177 Globemaster en route to Whitehorse, Yukon as part of Op NANOOK on August 15, 2016. (Cpl. Chase Miller / Canadian Forces Support Unit, Imaging Services.)
Canadian Armed Forces members await take-off onboard a CC-177 Globemaster en route to Whitehorse, Yukon as part of Op NANOOK on August 15, 2016. (Cpl. Chase Miller / Canadian Forces Support Unit, Imaging Services.)

The Canadian military and other branches of government are training to respond to an earthquake in a remote Arctic community in Yukon, as the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) kick off their largest annual exercise in the North.

The exercise is part of Operation NANOOK 2016, said Lt. (Navy) Rob Davenport, operations officer at Joint Task Force (North).

“There is a significant amount of seismic activity on the Western side of Yukon especially,” Davenport said. “If you think about it, Yukon is bracketed by Alaska and BC, both of which are known for significant earthquake areas, the same fault lines would affect Yukon.”

About 850 civilian participants and CAF personnel will take part in Operation NANOOK from August 21 to September 2, 2016 in and around the Whitehorse and Haines Junction area of Yukon as well as in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, said Davenport.

“We’re working with departments from all levels of government – from federal all the way down to the local First Nation government,” Davenport said. “This includes at the federal level RCMP and Public Safety, we’re also working with the Yukon territorial government and we’re working with the town of Haines Junction and Champagne Aishihik First Nations.”

The first scenario calls for the military to deal with a “moderate” earthquake – 6.5 on the Richter scale – at a remote location, in this case Haines Junction, Yukon, Davenport said.

The military will be deploying some of its urban search-and-rescue capabilities, as well as fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, he said.

In addition to simulating a response to an earthquake, the military will also be training to retrieve a crashed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) near Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Davenport said.

“One of the things that’s unique about Op NANOOK this year is we wanted to have two events happening in two separate locations that were very far apart,” Davenport said.

Military observers from France, United Kingdom, and United States are observing the exercise.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s defence review and the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Finnish Air force to take part in joint Finnish-Swedish-US military exercises, Yle News

Norway:  Norway patrolling Russia’s military activity in Arctic with new intelligence vessel, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia:  Paratrooper exercises over Arctic Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden:  New security landscape in the Arctic, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. general says Alaska military cuts not final without Arctic plan, Alaska Public Radio Network

Levon Sevunts, Radio Canada International

Born and raised in Armenia, Levon started his journalistic career in 1990, covering wars and civil strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In 1992, after the government in Armenia shut down the TV program he was working for, Levon immigrated to Canada. He learned English and eventually went back to journalism, working first in print and then in broadcasting. Levon’s journalistic assignments have taken him from the High Arctic to Sahara and the killing fields of Darfur, from the streets of Montreal to the snow-capped mountaintops of Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. He says, “But best of all, I’ve been privileged to tell the stories of hundreds of people who’ve generously opened up their homes, refugee tents and their hearts to me.”

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