Welsh Professor Makes Waves about the Risk of More Tsunamis; Academic Points to Major Floods in Past

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

Welsh Professor Makes Waves about the Risk of More Tsunamis; Academic Points to Major Floods in Past


Byline: Darren Devine

THE risk of a tsunami hitting the UK is far greater than previously thought, according to a Welsh academic who has investigated 1,000 years of devastating floods.

Simon Haslett, a professor at the University of Wales, Newport, makes his claim in a new BBC Time watch documentary suggesting there have been five British tsunamis.

And in addition to the well-documented Bristol Channel flood of 1607, he says he has found evidence of two other major historic tsunamis hitting Wales - in 1014 and 1892.

Professor Haslett, working alongside Australian colleague Professor Ted Bryant, said the 1892 tsunami resulted from a 5.1 magnitude earthquake generating massive waves in Milford Haven and in the Bristol Channel.

The 1014 flood, meanwhile, was documented in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

It is also recorded by English historian William of Malmesbury, who wrote: "At idal wave... grew to an astonishing size such as the memory of man cannot parallel, so as to submerge villages many miles inland and overwhelm and drown their inhabitants."

Professor Haslett told the Western Mail: "We've got substantial evidence for a tsunami hitting (in 1014) right around Britain from Cumbria, Wales, Cornwall and even up the English Channel.

"Colleagues of ours in Belfast think it was caused by a comet dropping into the North Atlantic and they've got ice core evidence that show extra-terrestrial chemicals.

"Also Welsh bardic poems at the time describe a tsunami coming ashore."

He added that if the event at Milford Haven happened again the consequences would be far graver given it's now the sixth busiest port in the UK.

He said: "We're looking at historic events and for most of that history Britain has been under-developed with no industry and we haven't built houses right up to the shore as we have now or in coastal flood plains.

"So there's an argument we're more at risk now than we were in the past."

The academic said not only are tsunamis more common here than previously thought, but the risks may rise due to global warming.

The effects of climate change, including rising sea-levels and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet have the potential for triggering undersea earthquakes and landslides that could generate massive tidal waves.

Following the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs compiled a report of the tsunami risk in Britain. …

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