'Thousands' Flee Rome in Anticipation of 'Prophet-Predicted Quake'

Is Rome going to be destroyed in a massive earthquake tomorrow, May 11? According to a rumored prophesy, yes! And so, "thousands of people are reported to be staying out of Rome for the next few days."

Not that we blame them! There are worse reasons to take a May Wednesday off than second-hand forecasts of death and destruction. This particular one is not even very well-sourced: The rumor, apparently, is that the late seismologist Raffaele Bendandi (pictured) — said to have predicted a deadly 1923 quake — forecast tomorrow "as the day Rome would be totally destroyed" (there will be two bonus "catastrophic events" next May), but Paola Lagorio, the president of the Osservatorio Geofisico Comunale, told Abruzzo that she "can say with absolute certainly that in the papers of Raffaele Bendandi there is no provision for an earthquake in Rome on the 11 May 2011."

Even so, the BBC cites "reports of an 18% increase in the number of city employees planning to stay away from work," and apparently the city government has been taking "a lot of calls from concerned Rome residents." (Resident Franceso Verselli, offers a counter-point: "Wherever the Pope is, nothing will happen." Yes, being Pope is rather boring these days.) Most Romans, however, seem content to go about their business ignoring traffic lights and yelling at each other. What's the worse that can happen, really? More bits of the Coliseum fall off?

[BBC; images via Shutterstock and Wikipedia]