Tsunami struck Galle in 1883 says famed futurist writer
Describing last Sunday’s destruction as Lanka’s Day After Tomorrow, Arthur C. Clarke sends SOS to the world and calls for effective early-warning systems

By Paul Michaud
PARIS - In an open letter sent to friends, among them this writer, famed futurist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, who is a fifty-year resident of Sri Lanka, reviewing the situation in his country following last Sunday's tidal wave, says how he described a similar phenomenon in his first book on the country, The Reefs of Taprobane (1957). Above all he requests that funds be sent to help Sri Lanka out of its precarious situation.

Speaking of "last Sunday's devastating tidal wave", Sir Arthur notes that "I am enormously relieved that my family and household have escaped the ravages of the sea that suddenly invaded most parts of coastal Sri Lanka, leaving a trail of destruction”.

“Many others," he continues, "were not so fortunate. For over two million Sri Lankans and a large number of foreign tourists holidaying here, the day after Christmas turned out to be a living nightmare reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow. My heart-felt sympathy goes out to all those who lost family members or friends.”

Among those who directly experienced the waves, he says, "were my staff based at our diving station in Hikkaduwa, and my holiday bungalows in Kahawa and Thiranagama, all beachfront properties located in southern areas that were badly hit. Our staff members are all safe, even though some are badly shaken and relate harrowing first hand accounts of what happened.

“Most of our diving equipment and boats at Hikkaduwa were washed away. We still don't know the full extent of damage -- it will take a while for us to take stock as accessing these areas is still difficult."

"This is indeed," he affirms, "a disaster of unprecedented magnitude for Sri Lanka, which lacks the resources and capacity to cope with the aftermath. We are encouraging concerned friends to contribute to the relief efforts launched by various national and international organizations.”

There is, he says, much to be done in both the short and long term for Sri Lanka "to raise its head from this blow from the seas. Among other things, the country needs to improve its technical and communications facilities so that effective early warnings can help minimise losses in future disasters".

Curiously enough, he notes, "in my first book on Sri Lanka, I had written about another tidal wave reaching the Galle harbour (see Chapter 8 in The Reefs of Taprobane, 1957). That happened in August 1883, following the eruption of Krakatoa in roughly the same part of the Indian Ocean.

Following the Al-Qaeda attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, Sir Arthur had been able to demonstrate at the time, that this attack too had been prefigured in one of his dozens of works that are best characterized as futuristic rather than science fiction as most of his works are based on scientific documentation, indeed his own discoveries, Arthur Clarke having been, as it's often forgotten, the "inventor" of the telecommunications satellite in October 1945.

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