Arthur C. Clarke loses diving school

COLOMBO, Dec 29 (AFP) - British-born science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke who has made Sri Lanka his adopted home lost his diving school with the deadly tsunami eerily echoing a plotline from his first book on the island.

Clarke — who predicted the establishment of communication satellites and shot to fame after his writing "2001: A Space Odyssey" — said his diving school at Hikkaduwa, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south here was destroyed.

"Among those affected are my staff based at our diving station and holiday bungalow, both beach-front properties located in areas worst hit," Clarke said in a statement.

"We still don’t know the full extent of damage as both roads and phones have been damaged. Early reports indicate that we have lost most of our diving equipment and boats. Not all our staff members are accounted for yet."

Clarke, now confined to a wheelchair after suffering from post-polio syndrome, was not in the area at the time.

The 87-year-old, who is an honoured guest of Sri Lanka and has a state technology institute named after him, said the island of 19 million people lacked the resources to cope with the aftermath of the catastrophe.

Official figures placed the toll at up to 17,640 dead and more than 20,000 injured. The loss of property is yet to be estimated with more than three quarters of the island’s coastline devastated.

"This is indeed a disaster of unprecedented magnitude for Sri Lanka which lacks the resources and capacity to cope with the aftermath," Clarke said. "We are all trying to contribute to the relief efforts."

His first book on Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, had a chapter on tidal waves hitting the southern port of Galle, he said.

"Curiously enough, in my first book on Sri Lanka, I had written about another tidal wave reaching the Galle harbour," he said.

"That happened in August 1883, following the eruption of Krakatoa in roughly the same part of the Indian Ocean."

He was referring to the submarine earthquake in the Indian Ocean off Indonesia that triggered the tsunami which devastated coastlines of seven Asian nations, with Sri Lanka one of the hardest hit.

He said he was "enormously relieved" that he escaped the ravages of the sea that suddenly invaded most parts of coastal Sri Lanka, leaving a trail of destruction.

"But many others were not so fortunate," he said. "For hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans and an unknown number of foreign tourists, the day after Christmas turned out to be a living nightmare."

Clarke is one of the world’s best known sci-fi authors with more than 80 books to his credit. He published his theory on geo-stationery satellites in 1945.

He is Sri Lanka’s best-known guest resident, but in recent years, his reputation has suffered amid allegations he abused local children, charges he has vehemently denied.



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