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Italian geologists accused over L'Aquila quake deaths

Seven Italian geologists, scientists and public officials have been charged with manslaughter following last April’s devastating earthquake that killed 299 people in the town of L’Aquila.

They have been charged with failing to take adequate precautions prior to the magnitude 6.2 quake.

The quake struck the small town of L’Aquila, some 95km north east of Rome, on 6 April killing 299, injuring over 1,500 and displacing 17,000.

L’Aquila’s Prosecutor’s Office believes the quake should have been predicted by Italy’s Commissione Grande Rischi (Commission of Big Risks). The commission is made up of scientists and experts who advise Italy’s civil protection department on seismology decisions.

It has charged four members of the commission, including INGV president Enzo Boschi, the Italian equivalent of the British Geological Survey and Italian National Earthquake Centre director Guilo Selvaggi. The three others charged are members of the civil protection department.

Foreshocks

The Prosecutor’s Office is citing a series of foreshocks that begun in December 2008 culminating in a large 4.0 magnitude tremor on 30 March 2009.

This prompted the mayor of L’Aquila Massimo Cialente to ask the commission to meet and decide whether it was appropriate to close a number of schools and evacuate older buildings.

They met on 31 March. Exact details of the meeting are not clear, but a press conference was held later that day where CGR members reassured the local population that the seismic activity did not warrant any form of emergency action.

The Prosecutor’s Office argues that on the basis of historic records and earthquake probability the population and local authority should have been put on alert.

It is carrying out a preliminary inquiry which could lead to a trail being held. The inquiry is expected to be completed next month.

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