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Doomsayers await 'apocalypse' as Maya calendar ends

The Mayan temples of Tikal, Guatemala, have become a prime location for tourists this month: December 21 marks the end of a 5,200-year cycle in the Maya calendar, which many believe means the world will end this day.

Thousands of people were expected to travel to the Mayan ruins in Guatemala and Mexico this Friday to celebrate the turn of the Mayan calendar.

The Mayan "Long Count" calendar points comes to a halt on December 21. There is much speculation on the reason why it does not continue beyond this date.

The December 21 mystery stems from a carved stone found in Tortuguero, a Mayan site in Mexico. It is believed to show a cryptic allusion to something really big happening on this day.

The US space agency NASA reported that thousands of worried people had contacted them asking for advice on what to do

"Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012," the agency wrote on a web page set up especially to reassure users that the world would not end in 2012.

There have been reports of people around the world stockpiling survival kits. Many are said to have headed to a number of towns around the world designated safe zones from the impending disaster.

The village of Sirince in western Turkey is said to be the place from where the Virgin Mary is said to have risen to heaven, so the town has been rumored to be one of the places that will be spared of the apocalypse. The 400 hotels in the area report that they are booked out.

Rumors the tiny French village of Bugarach would be spared had led hundreds of journalists to descend on the region in search of doomsday believers – who failed to turn up in large numbers.

In many Asian capitals, restaurants and clubs have planned apocalypse-themed parties and dinners for this Friday.

Mexico: cashing in on doomsday

The apocalypse is also being taken seriously in parts of China, where the state-run Global Times reported that a "Mayan ritual" would be performed in the southern province of Hunan to attract alien visitors. But there have also been arrests of some 1,000 followers of a Christian sect that spread doomsday rumours and urged followers to slay the "red dragon" of communism.

rg/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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