Italy Charges Seismologists with Manslaughter for Failure to Predict Deadly Earthquake

Italy has filed charges of manslaughter against the president of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, and six other scientists, for failing to predict the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake that killed 308 people.

While most scientists believe that earthquakes are inevitable – and that their occurrences are usually not matters of “if” but of “when” – they also agree that it is virtually impossible to predict when they will strike.

The decision to try the six members of a committee tasked with determining the risk of an earthquake in the area (along with a government official) was announced by Judge Giuseppe Romano, according to the American Associate for the Advancement of Science.

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the indictment on manslaughter charges says the seven defendants provided “imprecise, incomplete and contradictory information,” in a press conference six days before the deadly quake struck. In so doing, they “thwarted the activities designed to protect the public.”

Scientists have searched for indicators of pending earthquakes for centuries, monitoring everything from small quake “storms” to animal behavior in the hours and days before quakes have hit. To date, there are no known methods considered valid or reliable for accurately predicting earthquakes.

Those crazy Italians, huh?


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