Chinese man building ark for Dec. 21

(CBS) -- If the great floods do come on December 21, 2012 as some believe, at least one Chinese farmer should be safe and dry.

Liu Qiyuan from China's northern Hebei province has spent over a year and a small fortune designing and building 'Noah's Ark' survival capsules he hopes will be the flexible lifeboats of the future.

They may look more like giant cannonballs than the biblical boat, but Liu is convinced the pods will carry the shipwrecked to safety, and him to success.

Accordingly, the lively 45-year-old has invested around two million yuan (300,000 U.S. dollars) designing and building seven versions of the pod, which he hopes will one day be massed-produced.

The original idea for the pods was inspired by his young daughter's fear of natural disasters, though Liu is not himself convinced the end of the world is nigh.

"'2012' won't necessary happen, but you can be sure disasters will happen around the world in the future, for example tsunamis, shipwrecks on open sea or earthquakes. Accidents happen every year. So I thought I should make one of these, and I started from around last September just sketching whenever I had time," said Liu.

Each pod weighs 4.2 tons, measures four meters in diameter, and can carry up to 30 people, who will navigate using a standard Yamaha engine, Liu says.

Pods are equipped with seat belts, oxygen tanks, power generators, batteries, and food supplies he says could sustain passengers for at least two months.

"They could be used out on the open sea for ocean liners of cargo ships. If passengers were shipwrecked, they could get inside this pod and survive. If such pods become widely used in society and out on the sea, I think the word 'shipwreck' would become a part of history," Liu said.

The original name for Liu's pod was "The Enemy of Shipwreck," but some of Liu's workers suggested "Noah's Ark" would attract more attention, particularly considering the popularity of the 2012 phenomenon in China, so he has sprayed the Chinese characters boldly on the side of finished models.

One of them can be seen bobbing along with small fishing boats in a large canal near Liu's village.

While Liu is aware his pods are far from perfect, he is looking for experts to help him make them more professional.

Asked whether he believed in Doomsday, Liu simply said it was important to be ready.

"So many people don't prepare, and only think about the event once it's already happened. I think this is a mistake. There is a Chinese saying that goes 'it's better to be prepared for nothing, than to be unprepared for something'. I think that's something worth thinking about," he said.

Fears that the world will end on December 21 have taken hold of many in China, as elsewhere.

State media recently reported on a rush on candles in the country's southwest following rumours that the 21st would be followed by three days and nights of darkness.

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