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Italian Earthquake Researchers Jailed

Seven people, including four scientists, are sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for failing to adequately assess the earthquake risk prior to a deadly 2009 quake.

By | October 23, 2012

A goverment office In L'Aquila damaged by the 2009 earthquake - Wikimedia, TheWiz83After more than a year in court, an Italian judge has ruled that seven people are guilty of manslaughter for issuing falsely reassuring statements to residents of L'Aquila just days before an earthquake killed more than 300 people in the central Italian town. The seven—which include a volcanologist, a geophysicist, a seismologist, and a professor of seismic engineering, as well as 2 engineers and a government official—were sentenced to 6 years in prison.

On March 31, 2009, just 6 days before the deadly quake struck, the seven convicted people had all participated in a meeting of Italy's National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, which was held in L'Aquila, as tremors rumbled beneath the town. According to prosecutors in the case, statements made during that meeting indicated that L'Aquila was in no danger of a major quake and misled residents of the town.

"It's incredible that scientists trying to do their job under the direction of a government agency have been convicted for criminal manslaughter," University of Southern California earth scientist Thomas Jordan told ScienceInsider. "We know that the system for communicating risk before the L'Aquila earthquake was flawed, but this verdict will cast a pall over any attempt to improve it. I'm afraid that many scientists are learning to keep their mouths shut."

Lawyers of the seven will appeal the sentence, a process that could take up to 6 years.

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Comments

Avatar of: MikeJ

MikeJ

Posts: 1

October 23, 2012

will the next guys get jailed for predicting an earthquake that doesn't happen?

Avatar of: FD

FD

Posts: 9

Replied to a comment from MikeJ made on October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012

That would at least make some kind of sense.

I was never overly proud of being Italian, but now I'm positively ashamed.

Avatar of: MonZop

MonZop

Posts: 6

October 29, 2012

For those interested in a slightly deeper understanding, I inform readers of The Scientists that the committee reassured people that no major earthquacke would happen. They did not fail to predict: they 'predicted' that nothing would happen, and suggested that people drink some wine and don't worry.

In my opinion (and in the opinion of the judges) they do have a responsibility.

Different form the judges, I am not convinced that incarcerating them will serve any good. However, it is very misleading to present the sentence as a 'process to science', especially when the wrong prediction caused the death of 309 people.

I invite some respect in front of them, and regret to see such superficial thinking expressed by 'scientists'.

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