- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
An Italian court convicted six scientists and a government official of manslaughter on Monday and sentenced them to six years in prison for failing to give adequate warning of a deadly earthquake which destroyed the central city of L’Aquila and killed more than 300 people in 2009.
The seven, all members of an official body called the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, were accused of negligence and malpractice in their evaluation of the danger of an earthquake and their duty to keep the city informed of the risks.
Earthquake prediction may have improvied in recent years, but it’s certainly not an exact science. And what exactly would authorities have done if they had received a warning? Evacuated the region? Earthquake-proofed a 14th-century city in a matter of months?
If the ruling stands, it’s not likely to encourage a new generation of Italians to take up seismology. And don’t be surprised if the National Commission’s next report warns of 9.4-magnitude earthquakes, tsunamis in Venice, an eruption of Vesuvius, and a plague of locusts just to be on the safe side.