ForexTV NewsDesk | October 23 2012 5:55 EDT
ForexTV.com (New York) by R.Rode
6 Italian scientists and a government official have been convicted of manslaughter for not properly predicting an earthquake that killed 309 people in 2009.
The scientists were sentenced to six years in prison.
According to prosecutors, the scientists and official downplayed the risks of a large quake in L'Aquila, Italy, after a series of tremors shook the city in early 2009. On April 6, 2009, a magnitude-6.3 quake hit, killing 309 people. L'Aquila's medieval architecture led to numerous building collapses during the quake.
At the trial, Italian authorities claimed that the men were convicted of manslaughter not for failing to predict the earthquake, but for inadequately interpreting the level of risk facing the city of L'Aquila, and being "misleadingly reassuring" in their statement.
Two scientists resigned their posts with the government's disaster preparedness agency Tuesday after a court in L'Aquila sentenced six scientists and a government official to six years in prison.
Luciano Maiani, the physicist who led the National Commission for the Prediction and Prevention of Major Risks, resigned in protest of the verdict Tuesday afternoon, Italy's Civil Protection Agency announced.
At the beginning of the trial in September 2011, U.S. earthquake scientists conveyed alarm at the idea of subjecting earthquake risk assessment to the criminal justice system.
"Our ability to predict earthquake hazards is, frankly, lousy," Seth Stein, a professor of Earth sciences at Northwestern University in Illinois, told LiveScience then. "Criminalizing something would only make sense if we really knew how to do this and someone did it wrong."
"To predict a large quake on the basis of a relatively commonplace sequence of small earthquakes and to advise the local population to flee" would constitute "both bad science and bad public policy," said David Oglesby, an associate professor in the Earth sciences faculty of the University of California, Riverside.
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