Will Rome crumble on Wednesday? Thousands of alarmed Italians are fleeing the capital amid rumours that a seismologist predicted that a devastating earthquake will strike the Eternal City.( But The Date Has Passed Already)
Scholars poring over the works of Raffaele Bendandi, who died in 1979, inferred that the self-taught seismologist had calculated that a massive earthquake would rock Rome on May 11, 2011, though the date is not explicitly written.
The president of the Bendandi Foundation tried to quash the rumour, saying: "I can say with complete certainty that in Bendandi's documents there is no trace of a prophecy about an earthquake in Rome on May 11, 2011."
That didn't stop Italians from panicking, notably because the controversial Bendandi is credited with having correctly predicted earthquakes during his lifetime on the basis of planetary alignments.
Police have been flooded with alarmed calls, and Rome's city hall decided to open a toll-free number "to calm the citizenry," an official said.
The flow of people to the outskirts of Rome has also spiked, according to Italy's main farmers association Coldiretti.
Across the capital, a noticeable number of shops are shuttered with notices citing vacation or illness, the ANSA news agency reported.
The scare comes just two years after a major earthquake hit the ancient city of L'Aquila, only around 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Rome, killing 308 people.
To allay fears, Rome's Sapienza University is offering a conference on Wednesday titled: "Waiting for the Earthquake: Knowing About Earthquakes and Understanding Their Impact to Learn How to Protect Yourselves."