COPS fear a mass suicide after more than 100 doomsday cult members in Brazil barricaded themselves inside a house to await “the end of the world”.
Leader and self-proclaimed prophet Luis Pereira dos Santos, has convinced his followers the apocalypse will happen today at 8pm GMT (4pm local time).
They are preparing to kill themselves by drinking soup laced with rat poison, authorities believe.
Santos – known to his flock as Daddy Luis – claims an angel visited him four years ago telling him the exact time the world was going to end
Last month the 43-year-old cult leader instructed his 113 followers to leave their jobs, give away all their possessions and take their children out of school.
The group have since been holed up inside a ten-bedroomed house, which they call The Ark, on the outskirts of Teresina, the capital of Brazil’s north-eastern state, Piaui.
Fifty military policemen forced their way in and removed 19 babies and children after receiving “credible” information that the group were planning to kill themselves by drinking poison.
A “significant quantity” of rat poison was found at the residence during the operation, which met little resistance from the cult members, a police spokesman said.
Apocalypse group leader Santos said he didn’t fear the police, denying that the group were planning to drink poison.
The father-of-five said: “I preach the gospel, and it says thou shalt not kill. We will be saved and raptured in another way.”
The former Catholic said most of his followers are former street beggars, prostitutes, drug dealers and criminals which God had told him to “save”.
He added: “About 5 o’clock in the morning I received a visit from an angel of God. It was alarming, of course, I’d never seen anything like that. He knocked on the door and then suddenly was inside my bedroom.
“He told me when the world would end, and called me to be a prophet.
“I have been faithful, but I lost everything I had, my mother, my father, my brother, neighbours, friends, my wife. They think I’m crazy.
“Those who don’t change will all die at 4pm. They will be possessed by beasts and will all kill each other. Then Planet Earth will be destroyed.
“Those who haven’t accepted the word of God still have a chance to be saved, but those who use drugs, alcohols or the effeminate won’t be forgiven.”
Followers of ‘Daddy Luis’ moved into The Ark, a large brick house they built themselves, on September 30. There they have spent the days praying and singing in preparation for their “rapture”, which they believe will transport them to heaven.
The group say they don’t follow any religious order or sect and have burned their bibles and mobile phones.
TV is banned in the house – followers are only allowed to watch religious movies.
When one cult member was asked why she had taken her daughter out of school, she said: “We’re preparing for the end of the world, so what’s the point of studying? Learning the word of God is more important.”
Children’s judge Maria Luiza de Moura, who issued the protection order, said the rescued children will be placed in care homes.
She said: “We believe that a mass suicide or murder may happen using a soup ingested by cult members.
“The adults are free to act of their free and spontaneous will, but we have to make sure that nothing happens to the children.”
The predicted end of the world happens to fall on a Brazilian public holiday, the feast day of the country’s patron saint Our Lady of Aparecida.
The largest recorded cult suicide was in 1978 when People’s Temple leader Jim Jones inspired 918 of his followers to commit suicide in Guyana by drinking cyanide.