The Zhejiang inventor whose successful crash test of his survival pod earlier this year made him an internet celebrity says he cannot keep up with demand for the device as December 21 doomsday fears mount.
Unable to churn out his "Atlantis Arks" fast enough, Yang Zongfu says he has stopped taking new orders for the six-metre-tall metallic spheres, which cost up to five million yuan (HK$6.2 million) each.
As it is, Yang has already told 11 buyers he would not be able to deliver the survival pods before Friday, when some believe the Mayan calendar will end and bring on the end times. He expects 15 customers will have their pods in hand should disaster strike.
"All clients require delivery before December 21," said Yang, who owns a scarf factory. "We simply could not find enough factories in Yiwu to meet the deadline for everyone."
Yang says the survival pods can withstand radiation, impacts of up to 350 tonnes and temperatures of up to 1,700 degrees Celsius. He believes they could safely house a family of three for more than a year.
Yang and his survival pods gained notoriety in August, when a video went viral showing him donning a protective suit, climbing into an Atlantis Ark and rolling down a hill and into a pond. He walked away unscathed.
The inventor said he assured all buyers that the December 21 apocalypse was nothing more than a rumour. Some agreed to extend delivery date beyond Friday, but went ahead with the order anyway.
Some of the clients said the purchase would help put anxious family members at ease, Yang said. Others believed the risk of natural disasters was increasing and wanted to prepare in advance of any turmoil.
"Most buyers have much more money then they could spend in a lifetime," Yang said.
Buyers hail from various places, including Guangdong and Beijing, but Yang said the largest orders were placed by businessmen from the coal-rich province of Shanxi . All have demanded anonymity.
"They don't want their friends or neighbours knowing," Yang said. "People might come to seize it when doomsday comes."
The inventor is just one of several mainland entrepreneurs selling survival pods and other products to help people ride out the apocalypse. But Yang denies the charge that he is exploiting people's fears for profit, saying the cost of producing the pods has consumed all his proceeds. "I've released the entire design on the internet so anyone could use the idea for free," Yang said, adding he wanted to help people be prepared for doomsday.