Will Rome be shaved off the face of the Earth today?

A seismologist had predicted that Rome will be reduced to rubble by quakes on May 11.

Last Updated: May 11, 2011, 21:24 PM IST

Washington: Hundreds of thousands of Romans are spooked by the reputed forecast of a self-taught seismologist who died more than 30 years ago that the Eternal City will be reduced to a pile of rubble following a massive earthquake on Wednesday.

Allegedly made by Raffaele Bendandi, who is said to have predicted several earthquakes, the forecast is causing a considerable panic in the capital, with many organizing open spaces gatherings on the capital’s outskirts, reports Discovery News.

Applications from the capital``s public employees for a day off on May 11 are 20 percent higher than for the same day in 2010, while many parents have already agreed to keep their children away from school.

"Better safe than sorry;" "I know it’s stupid, but I’m scared;" "I’m going to sleep in my car tonight" - dozens of such comments are appearing on 11 Maggio Terremoto a Roma (11 May Earthquake in Rome), one of several Facebook groups dedicated to Rome’s heralded cataclysm.

Panic is rising with the news that on Tuesday modest quake shocks hit an area some 100 km south of Rome, between the Lazio and the Abruzzo regions.

The area is not too far from the central city of L’Aquila, which was devastated by an earthquake two years ago. That quake claimed more than 300 lives and was also felt in Rome.

"Seriously, I began to be scared," wrote the administrator of the Facebook group.

Trying to calm the raising panic, Italy’s National Geophysical and Volcanology Institute (INGV) will open its headquarters to the public tomorrow, and arrange meetings with scientists, guided tours to the monitoring rooms and lectures on earthquakes.

"Earthquakes can’t be predicted. We cannot forecast, nor can we exclude, that a quake will occur on May 11, June 11 or any other date," INGV said in a statement.

According to Paola Lagorio, the president of an organization dedicated to Bendandi and which preserves all his manuscripts, the forecast doesn’t even originate from Bendandi.

"His manuscripts make no mention to any earthquake in Rome on May 11, 2011," Lagorio said.

ANI