Italy Puts Scientists on Trial for Failure to Warn of Deadly Quake

Quake killed more than 300

By Greg Wilson
|  Tuesday, Sep 20, 2011  |  Updated 10:28 AM CDT
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Italy Puts Scientists on Trial for Failure to Warn of Deadly Quake

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The rubble of a building destroyed in a 2009 earthquake in the medieval town of L'Aquila, Italy.

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Italy has put seven scientists on trial for manslaughter, saying they should have provided better warning of a 2009 earthquake that killed more than 300 people.

The defendants are accused of giving "inexact, incomplete and contradictory information" about whether smaller tremors in the six months before the April 6, 2009 quake should have prompted a wider warning. Fellow seismologists have blasted the prosecutions, saying it's impossible to predict earthquakes with certainty.

Last year, about 5,200 international researchers signed a petition supporting their Italian colleagues and the Seismological Society of America wrote to Italy's president expressing concern about what it called an unprecedented legal attack on science.

But prosecutors point to a memo just one week before the temblor issued after a meeting of the Great Risks commission which concluded that it was "improbable" that there would be a major quake though it added that one couldn't be excluded.

The 6.3-magnitude quake killed 308 people in and around the medieval town of L'Aquila.

Althought earthquakes cannot be predicted, probabilities can be calculated for quake potential in a certain area, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Procedural issues took up the bulk of Tuesday's court proceedings.  The former vice chief of the technical department of Italy's civil protection agency was the only defendant in court.

The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1.
 

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