Indian girl kills self over "Big Bang" fear: family

BHOPAL, India Wed Sep 10, 2008 3:11pm EDT

Scientists look at a computer screen at the control centre of the CERN in Geneva September 10, 2008. REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool

Scientists look at a computer screen at the control centre of the CERN in Geneva September 10, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool

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BHOPAL, India (Reuters) - A teenage girl in central India killed herself on Wednesday after being traumatized 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 the state of 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 Indian news programs.

"In the past two days, Chayya had asked me and other relatives about the world coming to an end on September 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 Indian 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 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 Organization 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 savored their favorite 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 state, told Reuters.

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."

(Additional reporting by Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar; Writing by Melanie Lee; Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Paul Tait)

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