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Mayan 'doomsday' sweeps across the world, no casualties

22 December, 2012

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BUGARACH: Diehard doomsayers hunkered down to await the apocalypse on Friday, but most took a lighthearted view of the Mayan "prophecy" of the world's destruction, laying on stunts and parties to while away the end.

"If you're in an underground bunker with a lifetime's supply of baked beans how stupid do you feel now?" asked one person on Twitter, which saw dozens of posts every minute joking about the failure of the world to end.

In the southern French village of Bugarach - rumoured to be one of the few places that will be spared when the end comes - dozens of journalists from across the world were bitterly disappointed at the lack of New Age fanatics to interview.

Police had wrongly anticipated an influx of visitors and blocked access to the village and the nearby Pic de Bugarach, a mountain which some say will open on the last day and aliens will emerge with spaceships to save nearby humans.

Hundreds of reporters also wandered aimlessly around the tiny village of Sirince in Turkey, hoping to grab a mystic taking refuge there.

Doomsayers identified Sirince - said to be the site from which the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven - as a safe haven that will be spared destruction thanks to the positive energy flowing through it.

And in Serbia, a pyramid-shaped mountain believed by some to be a source of unusual electromagnetic waves that could shield it from catastrophe, attracted record numbers of visitors. December 21 marks the end of an era that lasted over 5,000 years, according to the Mayan "Long Count" calendar. Some believe the date, which coincides with the December solstice, marks the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs.

But scholars have ridiculed the idea, and say the date simply marks the end of the old Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new one. Australia was one of the first countries to see the sun rise on December 21, and Tourism Australia's Facebook page was bombarded with posts asking if anyone had survived Down Under. "Yes, we're alive," the organisation responded to fretting users.

Tongue-in-cheek scientists in Taiwan planted an electronic countdown timer atop a two-storey replica of a Mayan pyramid, drawing crowds at the National Museum of Natural Science.

Seven-year-old Wang Si-shien was unimpressed. "I'm not scared at all," she said as she visited the museum with her school class.

Some argued online that an impending milestone for the "Gangnam Style" video of South Korean rapper Psy - one billion views on YouTube - was itself a harbinger of doom, enlisting a fake Nostradamus verse in their cause. Over the centuries, the end of the world has been predicted countless times, from the early Christians to controversial US pastor Harold Camping last year. US space agency NASA has been contacted by thousands of worried people asking what to do. In a web page devoted to debunking the Mayan prophecies, it reassured them that the world will not end in 2012.

"Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012," it said.

End.

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