As the earthquake hit Spain, one in five residents of Rome stayed off work and children were kept out of school over earthquake fears following a 1915 prediction by seismologist Raffaele Bendandi that “the big one” would strike on May 11, 2011.
Thousands of Romans fled the city and shops were shuttered over quake fears, despite officials insisting they cannot be predicted and special programmes running on Italian state TV calling for calm.
“I’m going to tell the boss I’ve got a medical appointment and take the day off,” said barman Fabio Mengarelli. “If I have to die, I want to die with my wife and kids, and masses of people will do the same as me.”
Over 20 tremors did strike Italy on Wednesday, but it was in Spain, around 800 miles to the west, that a devastating quake struck.
Bendandi is said to have predicted several earthquakes which hit Italy during the last hundred years before his death in 1979 and the panic on Wednesday was fanned by Facebook, Twitter and text messages.
Bendandi believed movement of plates and therefore earthquakes were the result of the combined movements of the planets, the moon and the sun and perfectly predictable.