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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Great balls of China to defend against 'apocalypse'
by Staff Writers
Qiantun, China (AFP) Dec 13, 2012


Many Americans see hint of Apocalypse in extreme weather
Washington (AFP) Dec 13, 2012 - A third of Americans believe the intensity of recent natural disasters is linked to the Apocalypse described in the New Testament, according to a poll released Thursday.

Many more blame global warming, the survey added.

Seeking to explain floods and heat or cold waves, 36 percent of those surveyed, and 66 percent of Evangelical Christians, evoke the end of the world, said the poll by the Public Religion Research Institute/Religion News Service.

But 63 percent of those polled blame climate change, and 67 percent say the US government should do more to address this problem.

Some 15 percent of those polled believe the world will end during their lifetime, and two percent say it will happen on December 21 of this year as some believe was predicted by the Mayan calendar.

A total of 1,018 adults took part in the poll, which was carried out between December 5 and 9 and had a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

As people across the globe tremble in anticipation of next week's supposed Mayan-predicted apocalypse, one Chinese villager says he may have just what humanity needs: tsunami-proof survival pods.

Camouflage-clad former farmer and furniture maker Liu Qiyuan, 45, inspected his latest creation, a sphere several metres tall he calls "Noah's Ark", designed to withstand towering tsunamis and devastating earthquakes.

"The pod won't have any problems even if there are 1,000-metre-high waves... it's like a ping pong ball, its skin may be thin, but it can withstand a lot of pressure," he told AFP at his workshop in Qiantun, an hour from Beijing.

Liu's seven completed or under-construction pods, made using a fibreglass casing over a steel frame, have cost him 300,000 yuan ($48,000) each, he says, and are equipped with oxygen tanks, food and water supplies.

They also come with seat belts, essential for staying safe in storms, Liu said, strapping himself into position before his assistants shook the sphere vigorously from outside.

"The pods are designed to carry 14 people at a time, but it's possible for 30 people to survive inside for at least two months," he said.

Their insulation was such that "a person could live for four months in the pod at the North or South Pole without freezing, or even feeling slightly cold," he said.

One of the spheres even boasts the domestic comforts of a table, bed and flowery wallpaper.

Liu claims he came up with the design after watching the 2009 Hollywood disaster film "2012", which is inspired by the expiry on December 21 of the Mayan Long Count, a more than 5,000 year calendar used by the ancient Central American civilisation.

"If there really is some kind of apocalypse, then you could say I've made a contribution to the survival of humanity," Liu said.

Apocalyptic predictions have provoked widespread fears among believers, including in China, where two rural counties sold out of candles this month after a panic that three days of darkness would begin on Dec 21, the Xinhua news agency reported.

A businessman in China's eastern Zhejiang province has received 21 orders for bright yellow doomsday survival pods also sold as "Noah's Ark," for five million yuan each, the state run China Daily reported.

A man from China's northwestern province of Xinjiang told AFP that he has invested all his savings, approximately $160,000, to build a survival ark, fearing that his home will be engulfed in a doomsday flood.

Chinese authorities have sought to reassure citizens, with Beijing's police force publishing an online notice on Wednesday stating that "the so-called end of the world is a rumour", and advising citizens to use "scientific concepts".

Liu first conceived of spherical houses to withstand earthquakes, which occur frequently in China, but switched his focus to survival technology after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives.

Liu, who is married with a daughter, said many were sceptical when he first outlined his plans. But despite building them he has not sold any, and is worried about repaying loans he took from neighbours and friends to fund his workshop.

"I worked for many years without saving much money... I invested most of my money in the pods, because it's worth it, it's about saving lives" he said.

Keen to demonstrate the design's strength to AFP, he used a step-ladder to clamber inside one pod before an assistant reversed a pick-up truck into it, inflicting only a minor scratch on its surface.

Peeking out of the hatch, he grinned triumphantly.

"No problem," he said. "I didn't feel a thing."

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