Seven Italian geologist, scientists and public officials have yesterday been convicted of manslaughter for failing to provide adequate warning before a devastating earthquake killing 299 in the town of L’Aquila.
The scientists are facing up to six years in jail for failing to take adequate precautions before the magnitude 6.2 quake in 6 April 2009. The quake struck the small town of L’Aquila, 95km north east of Rome, killing 299, injuring over 1,500 and displacing 17,000.
L’Aquila’s prosecutor’s office said 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 convicted four members of the commission, including Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) president Enzo Boschi and Italian National Earthquake Centre director Guilo Selvaggi. INGV is the Italian equivalent of the British Geological Survey. The three others convicted are members of the civil protection department.
INGV expressed its “deep concern” about the verdict.
“It is important to stress that this sentence sets a precedent that could affect dramatically the relationship between scientists and decision makers, not only in our country but also worldwide,” said INGV in a statement.
INGV said the conviction will prevent scientists taking in part in public debate for fear of being convicted.
“Which scientist will express their opinion being consciously aware he or she could go to jail for doing so,” added INGV.