Chinese authorities have arrested 93 people who have been spreading rumors about the alleged end of the world, the official Xinhua news agency said Monday.

Standing out among the arrested people are 41 members of the so-called Church of the All-powerful God in the provinces of Qinghai and Inner Mongolia, who are accused of spreading the idea that starting Dec. 21 "the Sun will stop shining and there will be no electricity for three days."

In the police operation, authorities seized computer disks, books, posters and printers used to disseminate these messages.

Superstitions about the alleged end of the world on Dec. 21, influenced by beliefs that are circulating worldwide regarding the "end" of the Mayan calendar, have affected some Chinese citizens, and in recent days there has been a proliferation of news stories regarding the "apocalypse."

Some Chinese have taken advantage of these fears by selling artifacts or other items that supposedly can save people from the end of the world, while in a town in the province of Sichuan it was reported that the rumors have resulted in a scarcity of matches and candles, given that people have flocked to stores to buy them in the expectation of a lengthy power blackout.

Other news stories have had a more tragic character, such as the attack carried out last Friday by a lunatic on a school in Henan.

The attacker, who wounded 22 children with a knife, had been driven over the edge by the end-of-the-world talk, police said. EFE