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Survive apocalypse in French hamlet

world Updated: Jun 17, 2011 15:52 IST

The French government has alerted the country to the risk of mass suicides by people who believe that the world would end by December 21, 2012.

A government watchdog, which monitors cults and suspicious spiritual activities, is keeping an eye on the hamlet of Bugarach in the south of France, which is said to be the only place in the world that will survive an apocalypse in 2012.

The remote hilltop villages have had an influx of New Age visitors in recent months.

A report published by watchdog Miviludes said that the picturesque village near Carcassonne should be monitored in the lead-up to the end of 2012.

"I think we need to be careful. We shouldn't get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people," the Daily Mail quoted Miviludes President Georges Fenech as saying.

With a population of just 200, Bugarach has long been considered magical, partly due to what locals claim is an 'upside-down mountain' where the top layers of rock are older than the lower ones.

The internet is awash with myths about the hamlet.

These include beliefs that the mountain is surrounded by a magnetic force, that it is the site of a concealed alien base, or even that it contains an underground access to another world.

Aside from the dangers in Bugarach, the Miviludes report also warned of the risk of increased activity by apocalyptic groups across France in the run-up to 2012.

The report said that among the groups highlighted in the report, the Ramtha movement is said to be focusing on southwestern France to spread its message.

Other groups being watched include the Raelians, founded by a former sports-car journalist who claimed to have had repeated encounters with aliens.

However, the report said that its aim is not to stigmatise movements but to inform the public about groups or individuals whose doctrine or discourse follows an "end-of-world" theory.

Miviludes was set up in 2002 to track the activity of sects, after a law passed in France made it an offence to abuse vulnerable people using heavy pressure techniques, meaning sects can be outlawed if there is evidence of fraud or abuse.