An internet rumour has caused thousands to take a day off and flee Rome today.
Apparently an Italian earthquake legend, Raffaele Bendandi ,who died 30 years ago predicted that the Eternal City would be flattened by an earthquake today.
Bendandi, who was knighted by Mussolini, is said to have predicted several disasters, including the Friuli quake of 1976, which killed almost 1,000 lives.
Local rag La Repubblica said that applications from the capital's public employees for a day off – and, presumably, out – were 18 percent higher than for the same day in 2011. Education officials were said to be expecting school attendances to be down by a fifth as parents decide it is better to be on the safe side.
Whether or not you believe that Bendandi could predict earthquakes is largely irrelevant to the story, because he never predicted an earthquake would hit Rome.
The head of a foundation set up in Bendandi's honour in his native town near Bologna, said the rumour of aneEarthquake today was an urban legend, probably caused by that internet thing.
Paola Lagorio, the president of the Osservatorio Geoficico Comunale of Faenza, has gone on record saying that in Raffaele Bendandi's papers, there is no prediction of a earthquake in Rome on 11 May 2011. The date is not there. The place is not there.
What seems to have happened is that someone has gone on the World Wide Wibble and written rubbish on a bog somewhere and it has snowballed into an internet reality.
Coincidently there is another earthquake prophet in Taiwan who claims the country will be split in two by a huge quake today. If he is right then the Rome office of TechEye will be still here.