Eternal City Emptied: Rome Under Grip Of Earthquake Prophecy Fear

If  you’re  planning to visit Rome anytime today or tomorrow, you might be greeted by people fleeing the city and long traffic jams due to that. The reason is a prophecy is due to  Raffaele Bendandi, the “earthquake prophet”, who  prophesied  a few decades ago that Rome would be razed to the ground in a devastating earthquake on 11th of May. Apparently, the residents of the Eternal City don’t believe it to be all that eternal.

Bendandi was known to be close to Mussolini. During the 20’s and 30’s he is said to have predicted a few earthquakes, earning him enough fame. Mussolini even knighted Bendandi! With an apparent prediction and the long reach of the internet, the news of the prediction is spreading fast – and along with it, panic.

Bendandi believed that  occurrence  of earthquakes happened because of the position of the moon, earth, sun and the other planets, and based on certain ‘calculations’, he hit upon a number of dates when Earthquakes might strike and even pointed out the place. Obviously, there has been a number of misses, but he’s believed to have predicted the Fruili earthquake of 1976.

Many offices remain closed today and others reported a record number of leave applications. Schools are expected to record attendance of less than one-fifth.

Raffaele Bendandi, the 'earthquake prophet'

Scientists are working actively to quell the fears. The National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV), Italy, has been uploading educational videos on Youtube and will be holding an open day today where the public can chat with geologists. They are stressing on the fact that it is “impossible to predict an earthquake in Rome tomorrow”, as  Gabriele Scarascia Mugnozza, director of the department of earth sciences at Sapienza University of Rome, put it.

People are not ready to take chances, though, reflecting yet again, how easy it is for superstition and false claims to interfere with people’s lives.

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.