THE US National Guard is on standby in Salem in case of emergencies during a rare total solar eclipse that will plunge much of the US into darkness on Monday.

NASA today tweeted that the first US city to witness the unusual event, which has been branded by hardline evangelical Christians as a sign of the end of the world, would be the east-coast US city in Essex County, Massachusetts, which is synonymous with witchcraft.

Of course, the US space agency does not believe anything untoward will happen during or after the eclipse, and has set up a base in the city to use high-tech equipment to capture stunning images of the eclipse.

NASA tweeted: “The eclipse’s path will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.

“Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse.”

This month’s solar eclipse, known as the “Black Moon” by followers of the Wicca religion, will be the first in more than a century to travel all the way from the east coast to the west coast of America,

Yet, several online conspiracy theories have caused panic among believers that an apocalypse will follow the event, particularly as it begins in Salem, which is heavily associated with witchcraft.

The Salem witch trials, between February 1692 and May 1693, were a series of prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft.

Twenty people, including 14 women were executed – all but one by hanging.

Five others, including two children died in prison.

The Oregon National Guard is on standby at Salem Airport in cause of any panic or emergencies in expected huge crowds as people flock in their thousands to watch the phenomenon.

Lt Col Brian Houston, a pilot in charge of the National Guard’s airbase, said: “If the roads become clogged we could use local law enforcement to create a landing zone on a local roadway.”

Ready to go on a moment’s notice, the guard has a Blackhawk helicopter, and two smaller helicopters, in Salem, and another Blackhawk in nearby Prineville.

He added: “The aircraft is all loaded. All of our gear is in it. All of our night vision is in it. The hoist has already been checked.

“We already ran the aircraft up this morning, the engine’s already been checked. All I have to do is get in, have the copilot crank and we’re gone.”

There are fears the city could go into an emergency lockdown during the eclipse.

Supermarket chain Fred Meyer said it is so concerned about staff getting caught in huge traffic jams, it has set up areas where they can sleep eat, so they can stay in the Salem store rather than face the crowds. CONTINUE READING…