The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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State, national news

June 20, 2013

Developer: Kan. caverns could preserve human race

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — After most of the world's population is wiped off the map by a wayward meteorite or hail of nuclear missiles, the survival of the human race might just depend on a few thousand people huddled in recreational vehicles deep in the bowels of an eastern Kansas mine.

That's the vision of a California man who is creating what he calls the world's largest private underground survivor shelter, using a complex of limestone caves dug more than 100 years ago beneath gently rolling hills overlooking the Missouri River.

"I do believe I am on a mission and doing a spiritual thing," said Robert Vicino, who has purchased a large portion of the former U.S. Army storage facility on the southeast edge of Atchison, about 50 miles northwest of Kansas City, Mo. "We will certainly be part of the genesis."

Before it comes time to ride out Armageddon or a deadly global pandemic, though, Vicino says the Vivos Survival Shelter and Resort will be a fun place for members to take vacations and learn assorted survival skills to prepare them for whatever world-changing catastrophe awaits.

Jacque Pregont, president of the Atchison Chamber of Commerce, said some people think the shelter plan sounds creepy or that Vicino has "lost his mind," while others are excited because they will finally get a chance to tour the property.

Atchison is known as the birthplace of Amelia Earhart and one of the most haunted towns in Kansas, Pregont said, so the survival shelter is likely to add to the town's tourism draw.

"It's quirky, and quirky gets attention," she said.

Recent Hollywood movies have done big business exploring themes about the human race, either through climate shifts, meteor impacts or zombie invasions. And the National Geographic Channel show, "Doomsday Preppers," documents the efforts of Americans who are preparing for the end of the world with elaborate shelters and plenty of freeze-dried rations.

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