Monday, October 22, 2012
Last year, I posted here and here about the manslaughter charges against Italian seismologists for failing to predict and adequately warn the public about the risk of an earthquake in the L'Aquila region of central Italy. There were some tremors in the area, but the seismologists did not predict it would lead to an imminent, major earthquake. There was, in fact, an earthquake in April 2009 that led to the deaths of over 300 people.
La Repubblica, the popular Italian newspaper, reports that the verdict affects seven members of the "Committee on Major risks" who were in office in 2009, and confirms the charges that they "provided false information" about the improbability of a strong seismic event on the night of April 6, 2009, which led to the deaths of 309 citizens. Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison, but a higher sentence of 6 was given. There's a video report here, but in Italian. The Telegraph notes that the scientists will also have to pay for the prosecution's legal costs. The decision is expected to create a profound chilling effect for scientists in Italy.
These results are surprising to say the least. I think the mainstream media in the U.S. will soon be paying a lot more attention to this case.
UPDATE: And speaking of liability for earthquakes, see this news report about how drilling for water in southern Spain may have contributed to the severity of an earthquake there last year.