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Saturday, May 8, 1999 Published at 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK


World: South Asia

India survives 'doomsday'

The floods predicted by astrologers have not occurred

An Indian "doomsday forecast" failed to materialise on Saturday, though not before causing widespread anxiety and substantial economic disruption.

Earthquakes, cyclones and floods were predicted by the authors of an astrological pamphlet because of a rare planetary alignment, which they said would happen this weekend.

Although dismissed by scientists, the pamphlet had caused anxiety in some parts of the country, particularly where there have been recent natural calamities.

Economic damage


[ image: The Aung breakers' yard is set to lose millions]
The Aung breakers' yard is set to lose millions
Work at the world's biggest ship-breaking yard in Gujrat came to a halt last week after more than 60,000 workers deserted the port town of Alang.

A cyclone struck the area last year and many people made the decision to return to distant homes to be with their families in the event of an even greater catastrophe.

By the time the workers return to work, authorities say, the yard will have lost nearly $60m.

Prediction a 'complete hoax'

The "doomsday forecast", as the Indian media dubbed it, was based on the claims of an astrological pamphlet. It said eight planets would be in alignment, triggering a calamity on earth, not necessarily confined to India.

Planetary alignments are not unusual although they are relatively rare. The arrangement of seven heavenly bodies, for example, including the earth, the sun and the moon, into a straight line, has occured no fewer than 14 times in the last 1,000 years.

But, according to scientists, there was no corresponding calamity on any of these occasions.

Leading astrologers also described the predictions as a complete hoax.

Relief from the heat

So far, the scientists and the many other sceptics have been proved right with nothing of an apocalyptic nature being reported.

Indeed, the citizens of the Indian capital, Delhi, had their first respite from an unprecedented early and deadly heat wave with temperatures dipping a shade below 40 C for the first time in days.

In other parts of the country though, the weather remains scorching and the death toll continues to creep up.

Dubious origins

Nobody quite knows how the rumour of impending disaster began.

According to one Indian newspaper, the doomsday prediction was published in the April issue of an astrological magazine.

Some others have pointed to a doomsday prediction in some ancient Indian religious texts.





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