Italian scientists charged with manslaughter for failing to predict earthquake

ScienceInsider reports:  Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial on charges of manslaughter with six other scientists and technicians for failing to alert the residents of L’Aquila ahead of the devastating earthquake that struck the central Italian town on 6 April 2009, killing 308 people. The ...

553550_aquila2.jpg
553550_aquila2.jpg

ScienceInsider reports:

 Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial on charges of manslaughter with six other scientists and technicians for failing to alert the residents of L'Aquila ahead of the devastating earthquake that struck the central Italian town on 6 April 2009, killing 308 people.

The seven experts sit on the nation's major risks committee, and were probed by L'Aquila prosecutors after members of the public complained that it was the committee's reassurances that persuaded them not to leave their homes ahead of the quake.[...]

ScienceInsider reports:

 Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial on charges of manslaughter with six other scientists and technicians for failing to alert the residents of L’Aquila ahead of the devastating earthquake that struck the central Italian town on 6 April 2009, killing 308 people.

The seven experts sit on the nation’s major risks committee, and were probed by L’Aquila prosecutors after members of the public complained that it was the committee’s reassurances that persuaded them not to leave their homes ahead of the quake.[…]

The seven were placed under investigation almost a year ago, and today L’Aquila Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella announced that they will be tried. According to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Gargarella said that the seven defendants had supplied "imprecise, incomplete and contradictory information," in a press conference following a meeting held by the committee 6 days before the quake. In doing so, they "thwarted the activities designed to protect the public," the judge said.

During the meeting on 31 March 2009—which also included other researchers from the INGV, city officials and representatives of the Civil Protection Department—committee vice chair Barberi, one of the seven to be tried, said there were no grounds for thinking that a major quake was imminent, even though the area around the town had been experiencing a series of smaller tremors in the previous months. In the press briefing afterward, prosecutors say, the commission made statements that gave the town’s people a false sense of security.

Hat tip to Tyler Cowen who quips, "I predict a boom in Italian earthquake forecasts."

Even not knowing much about the Italian legal system, I’d imagine that, given the vagaries of geological forcasting, it would be pretty tough to get a conviction here. But if there this is one, you have to wonder about the precedent. Could the countries leaders be charged for not preventing economic crisis? Iceland’s giving it a shot.  

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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