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Italy tries to halt quake panic

Italy has gone to extraordinary lengths to try to dismiss an urban legend predicting a devastating earthquake in Rome.

The Civil Protection department has posted a masses of information on its website stressing that quakes cannot be predicted and that the city is not particularly at risk.

Toll-free numbers have been set aside at city hall to field questions.

The national geophysics institute opened its doors to the public to inform the curious and the concerned about seismology.

The effort is all designed to disprove a purported prediction of a major Roman quake on May 11 2011, attributed to self-taught seismologist Raffaele Bendandi, who died in 1979. The only problem is Bendandi never made the prediction, says Paola Lagorio, president of the association in charge of Bendandi's documentation.

Mr Lagorio insists that there is no evidence in Bendandi's papers of any such precise a prediction and blames unidentified forces who want to "frighten people and create this situation of panic that is attributed to a prediction Bendandi never made."

Despite her denials and the concerted effort by seismologists to calm nerves, some Romans are taking precautionary measures. Italian agriculture lobby Coldiretti said that a survey of farm-hotels around the capital indicated many Romans were leaving town for the day.

"One cannot speak of an exodus, but there are cases of entire families that have decided to leave the city for the country," it said.

Officials have blamed the media and viral rumour-mongering on the internet for fuelling fears.

The last major quake in the region was the 6.3-magnitude shock that struck the central Italian city of L'Aquila and its surroundings on April 6, 2009. More than 300 people were killed in the quake zone.


From Belfast Telegraph