Quakes hit Italy, but spare Rome

Myth goes wrong

Despite efforts by seismologists to debunk the myth of a major Roman quake on May 11, 2011 and stress that quakes can never be predicted, some Romans left town just in case, spurred by rumour-fuelled fears that ignore science.

Many storefronts were shuttered. And an agriculture farm lobby group said a survey of farm-hotels outside the capital indicated some superstitious Romans had headed to the countryside for the day.

The fears are all thanks to a purported prediction of a major Roman quake on Wednesday attributed to self-taught seismologist Raffaele Bendandi, who died in 1979. However, Paola Lagorio, president of the association in charge of Bendandi’s documentation, says there’s no evidence Bendandi ever made such a precise prediction.

Adam Burgess, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Kent said rumours like these tend to occur in “information vacuums,” such as during war when there are situations of uncertainty.

In this case, he suggested, the viral rumour-mongering about a Roman quake may reflect a lack of trust Italians feel towards their government. Italian officials have taken extraordinary measures to try to calm nerves and debunk the myth.

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