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Sep 10, 2008

Girl kills self over Big Bang fear

BHOPAL: A teenage girl in Madhya Pradesh herself on Wednesday after being traumatised by media reports that a "Big Bang" experiment in Europe could bring about the end of the world, her father said.

The 16-year old girl from Madhya Pradesh drank pesticide and was rushed to the hospital but later died, police said.

Her father, identified on local television as Biharilal, said that his daughter, Chayya, killed herself after watching doomsday predictions made on news programmes.

"In the past two days, Chayya had asked me and other relatives about the world coming to an end on Sept. 10," Biharilal was quoted as saying.

"We tried to divert her attention and told her she should not worry about such things, but to no avail," he said.

For the past two days, many news channels held discussions airing doomsday predictions over a huge particle-smashing machine buried under the Swiss-French border.

The machine, called the Large Hadron Collider, was switched on Wednesday, at the start of what experts say is the largest scientific experiment in human history.

The machine smashes particles together to achieve, on a small-scale, re-enactments of the "Big Bang" that created the universe.

Leading scientists and researchers at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, said the experiment was safe. They dismissed as "pure fiction" doomsday predictions that the experiment could create anti-matter, or black holes.

But in deeply religious and superstitious India, fears about the experiment and the minor risks associated with it spread rapidly through the media.

In east India, thousands of people rushed to temples to pray and fast while others savoured their favourite foods in anticipation of the world's end.

"There were a thousand more devotees yesterday as well as today compared to (any) other normal day," Benudhara Sahu, a temple official in Orissa, told reporters.

Many women and children rushed to temples and observed fasts as they prayed for deliverance, officials and witnesses said.

Assurances by scientists and the media that nothing would happen counted for nothing for housewife Rukmini Moharana.

"I visited temple, prayed to god," Moharana said. "I am observing the fast for safety because god can only save us."