Scientists on Trial in Italy for Failing to Warn about Deadly Earthquake

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Scientist Bernardo De Bernardinis in court (AP Photo: Raniero Pizzi)
Seismologists around the world are closely watching an unprecedented legal case in Italy that is threatening to indict their entire profession.
On trial are seven scientists and other experts accused of manslaughter for allegedly failing to warn residents before a 2009 earthquake that killed more than 300 people in the central part of the country.
The defendants and their allies insist it is impossible to predict earthquakes. They also say to hold scientists criminally responsible could cause many of them to never provide public input again on the possibility of future quakes.
Victims of the April 6, 2009. L’Aquila earthquake argue that the point is not that earthquakes can be predicted, but that the seismologists should not have given the dangerous and misleading impression that a major quake was “improbable,” which led residents of L'Aquila not to take precautions. The 6.3 quake took the lives of 309 people, injured more than 1,500 and destroyed 20,000 buildings.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Trial Opens Against Scientists for Italy Quake (by Nicole Winfield, Associated Press)
Scientists on Trial: At Fault? (by Stephen Hall, Nature)


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