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 farmer and furniture maker Liu Qiyuan, 45, inspected his latest creation: A sphere several meters tall he calls “Noah’s Ark,” which is designed to withstand towering tsunamis and devastating earthquakes.
“The pod won’t have any problems even if there are 1,000m high waves ... it’s like a ping-pong ball, its skin may be thin, but it can withstand a lot of pressure,” he told reporters at his workshop in Qiantun, an hour from Beijing.
Liu’s seven completed or under construction pods are made using a fiberglass casing over a steel frame and have cost him 300,000 yuan (US$48,000) each, he said. The pods are equipped with oxygen tanks, food and water, as well as 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,” Liu added.
One of the spheres even boasts the domestic comforts of a table, bed and flowery wallpaper.
Liu said he came up with the design after watching the 2009 Hollywood disaster film 2012, which is inspired by the expiry on Dec. 21 of the Mayan Long Count, a more than 5,125-year-long calendar used by the ancient Central American civilization.
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, Xinhua news agency reported.
A businessman in Zhejiang Province has received 21 orders for bright yellow doomsday survival pods for 5 million yuan each, the state-run China Daily reported.
A man from China’s northwestern province of Xinjiang told reporters that he has invested all his savings, approximately US$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 rumor” and advising citizens to use “scientific concepts.”
Liu first conceived of spherical houses to withstand earthquakes, but switched his focus to survival technology after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which claimed nearly one-quarter of a million lives.
Liu, who is married and has a daughter, said many were skeptical when he first outlined his plans and he has not sold any of the pods, and is worried about repaying loans he took 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, 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.”