Superstitious Romans left the city in hordes on Wednesday fearing the ‘immortal city’ could be ground to dust, as if it were, by an earthquake predicted to hit on that day.
Large numbers of people left the city or stayed away from work fearing the prediction of a self-taught Italian seismologist that a major earthquake would hit Rome on May 11, 2011 will come true. The self-styled seismologist Raffaele Bendandi, who died in 1979, had predicted that a 'big one' would hit Rome on May 11.
And, as it turned out, as many as 30 minor quakes struck Italy on Wednesday, but no impact was felt in Rome. Also, by evening came the news of the destructive Spanish earthquake. Major earthquakes have never struck Rome, although tremors of quakes in other places have felt in the city in the past.
Seismologists in Italy had debunked the quake prediction as just viral rumor-mongering. Rome is not at risk of any earthquake ... There have never been any strong earthquakes confirmed under the city, Enzo Boschi, president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, assured the citizens of Rome.
There is no scientific means to predict an earthquake. Wide use of social media like Facebook and twitter helped flare up the flames of quake rumors. Shops in many districts remains closed on Wednesday as people chose not to test fate. According to consumer group Aduc, as many as 20 percent of Romans skipped work on Wednesday.
People were reluctant to leave their homes and travel on the metro. Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno tried to allay the fears, saying the Roman quake myth was just a superstition. I believe Romans are too serious to be duped by this kind of rubbish, he said.
However, people vividly remembered the earthquake in L'Aquila that killed more than 300 people in 2009 and were unwilling to leave things to fate.