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Taiwan probes 'prophet' over apocalypse warning

29 april 2011, 14:29
Taiwanese authorities said Friday they are investigating whether a self-proclaimed "prophet" is trying to make money with a prediction that the island will be engulfed by a giant tsunami in May, AFP reports.

The man, known to the public only as "Teacher Wang", has set off a rush to build makeshift shelters from containers, and prosecutors are wondering if he might be colluding with companies in the container industry.

"We are investigating if Wang collaborated with the container business as part of a scam to defraud people," said a spokesman for the prosecutor's office in central Taiwan's Nanli county.

More than 100 shelters converted from cargo containers are being built in Puli, a town in the county, after Wang made public a prophesy that a quake-induced monster wave would hit Taiwan on May 11, claiming millions of lives.

Wang had advised people to stay in cargo containers, which he said would be safer than regular buildings once the alleged imminent catastrophe happened, according to local media reports.

"He could also be violating the Social Order Law by spreading rumours to cause public panic," the spokesman said.

Fraud convictions carry a maximum five-year jail term while breaking the law on social order is punishable by a fine of up to Tw$30,000 ($1,000), he said.

Taiwan's weather bureau on Thursday also warned that Wang risked a fine of up to Tw$1 million for issuing unauthorised disaster warnings on his blog -- remarks he later removed.

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