Apocalypse mayday call 'just a false alarm'

As 6pm approached, Chris Valdez braced himself for the apocalypse.

Having spent months preparing for the end of the world, the 18-year-old sat with his family at their Pennsylvanian home and waited for the destruction to begin.

"I guess we were wrong," he conceded yesterday morning after Judgement Day failed to materialise.

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He wasn't alone. Across America hundreds of believers had signed up to the notion that May 21 was to be their last day on Earth. Some had given up jobs, others drained their savings to help spread the message.

Meanwhile the man behind the prediction was nowhere to be seen as it became clear that the world was not coming to an end after all. Having got it wrong for a second time, 89-year-old Christian broadcaster Harold Camping yesterday offered no immediate explanation to his followers.

The doomsayer had convinced thousands of people around the world that 21 May, 2012, was to be the day of rapture, when the chosen 200 million would be transported to heaven. He said a massive earthquake would strike Australasia at 6pm on Saturday. The quake was due to make its way across the globe, time zone by time zone, bringing death and destruction to all but a few. The globe was destined to be finally consumed by a fireball on October 21.

"I was so sure it was going to happen," Mr Valdez said, adding: "It must have been something we didn't see, we were wrong."

The young man and his father had spent the weeks leading up to Saturday spreading Mr Camping's prophecy, joining fellow followers as they attempted to convince a sceptical audience.

Despite handing over a few hundred dollars to Family Radio, the 18-year-old doesn't think he was duped.

"I didn't believe in any man, I believed in the Bible. I don't think I was scammed, I did give them some money though," he said.

Mr Camping, pictured right, has built up a multi-million dollar media empire around his Family Radio network.

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Outside the organisation's modest Oakland, California headquarters on Saturday, some 100 people gathered outside prior to 6pm local time, although it appeared none of the believers of the prophecy were among them. Some strolled around in a variety costumes that portrayed monks, Jesus Christ and other figures.

"Am I relieved? Yeah. I've got a lot going on," Peter Erwin, a student from Oakland, said, with a hint of sarcasm. "Trying to get specific about the end of the world is crazy."

Revellers counted down the seconds before the anticipated hour, and people began dancing to music as the clock struck 6 pm. Some released shoe-shaped helium balloons into the sky in an apparent reference to the Rapture.

Attempts to contact the Christian broadcaster himself proved futile over the weekend and no statement was released on his behalf.

The 89-year-old former engineer has spent years broadcasting his prophecy of doom.

He had previously taken a punt at Judgement Day arriving in 1994, but after it came and went he put the non-occurrence down to a mathematical error.

Having gone back to the Bible and re-interpreted the clues, Mr Camping was sure that this time around, he had got it right.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt, 21 May, will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgement," he told reporters prior to the big day.

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In New York's Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick, of Staten Island, spent his own money to put up advertising about the end of the world. "I can't tell you what I feel right now," he said, surrounded by tourists. "Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here."