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A California entrepreneur is building a series of hardened underground bunkers that he says will be able to save the lives of 4,000 well-heeled bunkernauts should something go terribly, terribly wrong with earth.

What might go wrong, you ask? The website of Vivos, the brainchild of founder Robert Vicino, provides a laundry list of worries: nuclear war, biological warfare, the return of Planet X (aka Niburu or Nemesis), ginormous solar-flare activity, a reversal of earth's magnetic poles, a global tsunami, a killer comet or asteroid*, or a super volcano that's sure to someday erupt from below Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

And Vicino isn't merely talking through his tinfoil hat. He recently gave a tour of his first such bunker - in an "undisclosed location" near the Mojave Desert town of Barstow, California ("Crossroads of Opportunity") - to an NBC News affiliate.

This first of Vicino's planned 20 bunkers is a 20,000 square foot facility buried five stories underground, which he says has walls two to three feet thick, room for dozens of bedrooms to accommodate 200 residents, plus a hospital and a "massive" kitchen.

Vicino wants to help the (affluent) common man. Referring to shelters such as the ones he's planning, he told NBC News: "The government has facilities - they're just don't have them for you and me." And so if you're willing to pay $50,000 for your space once Vicino's shelters are open for business, he'll put you on his waiting list - which he claims now has around 1,000 paranoid prudent prospective customers.

The Vivos website notes that 2012 - the Mayan end-o-world date and movie premise - is just around the corner. But it doesn't stop there, citing other doomsday prophecies from "Christianity, Judaism, Freemasonry, the Hopi Indians, Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and many ancient cultures separated by thousands of miles" that say the end is near.

And did you know that "On December 21, 2012 our solar system will be aligned with the dark rift of the Milky Way for the first time in 26,000 years"? Can't be good.

But Vicino says that the end of the world in 2012 isn't the only thing we need to worry about: "Besides 2012, [there's] what's happening in Iran, what's happening in our economy, social anarchy, economic anarchy, the possibility of Yellowstone going, [and] the recent earthquakes we've seen."

Worry not, though - if you're fortunate enough to be one of Vicino's 4,000 chosen people. He promises that his shelters will be able to stand up to these horrors without breaking a sweat. A Vivos shelter, his website claims, can withstand:

  • successive earthquakes rating 10 on the Richter Scale
  • 450 mph surface winds
  • 12 feet of snow accumulation and 10 feet of rainfall
  • 90-pound hail stones coming in at 100 mph
  • flooding submersion for 500 hours
  • a 50-megaton nuclear air burst detonated 20 miles away
  • 45 psi of blast-force overpressure
  • external fires at 1,250°F (677°C) for 10 days
  • solar flares with a million-volt electromagnetic pulse
  • the aforementioned magnetic-pole shift
  • radiological, chemical, and biological weapons
  • forced entry and armed assaults
  • and, of course, the "social anarchy" concomitant with any überdisaster

But even with all that armor, Vicino envisages a rather cozy - if austere - underground life should you join his band. Check out, for example, the Vivos promo video, complete with Second Life–quality 3D graphics and hyper-portentous background "music:"

While the physical accommodations may seem a wee bit cramped, note that Vivos promises that the shelters will be "stocked with an abundant supply of gourmet foods" for one year of survival. During your stay and after your return to what's left of earth, Vivos will also provide you with such amenities as:

...water, fuel, clothing, bedding, toiletries, educational and entertainment materials, exercise equipment, medicine, medical equipment, security devices, survival gear, tools, spare parts, radios, computers, televisions, safes, refrigerated vaults, off-road vehicles, seeds, farming tools, hunting, fishing equipment, and much more.

And of course, you'll enjoy the company of deep-pockets 2012-believers who will join you as you leave your Vivos shelter in, oh, late 2013, to say to "I told you so" to whomever - or whatever - you might find among the remains of civilization. ®

Bootnote

One candidate for that killer asteroid is 99942 Apophis, which NASA has been tracking for some years. That 210-330m (690-1,080ft) space wanderer's next close encounter should bring it to within about 15,000 miles of earth on April 13, 2029. That'll be Friday the 13th, by the way.

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