Italian scientists jailed for failing to predict earthquake
court has convicted six scientists and a government official of
manslaughter for failing to give adequate warning of a deadly
earthquake in 2009, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
The city of L'Aquila was decimated by the quake, which measured
more than 6.3 on the Richter scale and »
Mumbai: The recent conviction of six Italian
scientists and a government official for their failure to predict
the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake is ridiculous, says a group of young
Mumbai scientists who have written to the Italian embassy in New
The Indian Astrobiological Research Centre (IARC) also plans to
write to Italian President Giorgio Napoletano, Indian President
Pranab Mukherjee and United Progressive Alliance chief Sonia
Gandhi, seeking their intervention in the matter. It will also
drum up support on various online social media like Twitter and
On April 6, 2009, 300 people were killed and 600,000 rendered
homeless when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Italian city
The Italian National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of
Major Risks was accused of "not providing proper information about
the risks posed" by the foreshocks which preceded the main
earthquake. And on Oct 22, an Italian court found seven guilty of
"involuntary manslaughter" after a 13-month trial.
The Italian court found the scientists guilty of providing
"incomplete, imprecise and contradictory" information and for "not
adequately warning" the local population of the impending
According to IARC head Pushkar G. Vaidya: "We find it ridiculous
that a handful of human beings can be held responsible for a
natural disaster of this magnitude over which nobody has any
"It clearly shows lack of very basic understanding of science,"
Vaidya, who heads 20 other team members, told IANS here Wednesday.
"We have sent a letter expressing solidarity with the convicted
scientists whom the scientific fraternity worldwide considers as
innocent. We demand that the court revoke its judgement and also
apologise for this poor and grossly misleading verdict."
As per the court ruling, the convicted scientists and the
government official have been given up to six years jail term and
also banned for life from public service.
They have also been ordered to shell out 7.80 million euros as
compensation to families of 29 victims named in the indictment and
to the city of L'Aquila - which had been earlier shattered by
mega-quakes in 1349, 1461 and 1703.
Despite advances in science and technology, top scientists
worldwide have failed to find any indicators that could provide
tell-tale signs of an impending major earthquake like changes in
the geomagnetic field signals, Vaidya explained.
Vaidya added that after decades of research on this subject, it is
a well-known scientific fact that it is not possible to predict
earthquakes with any reasonable amount of certainty.
"It is impossible to predict exactly where the next fault will be
active. The only thing to do is to live in safe buildings.
Prediction is not the key to surviving," Laura Peruzza from the
National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics in
Sgonico, Italy, was quoted as saying in www.nature.com.
In June 2010, thousands of scientists wrote to the Italian
president, through the American Association for the Advancement of
Science (AAAS), pointing out that "the charges against these
scientists are both unfair and naive".
Scientists from the US and Britain have also reacted to the
conviction of the seven Italians.
"To predict a large quake on the basis of a relatively commonplace
sequence of small earthquakes and to advise the local population
to flee would constitute both bad science and bad public policy,"
said David Oglesby of the University of California, Riverside.
In Italy, Luciano Maiani, physicist and head of National
Commission for the Prediction and Prevention of Major Risks,
resigned protesting the verdict Tuesday.
A bewildered Enzo Boschi, one of the convicted scientists said
after the verdict: "I'm dejected and despairing. I still don't
understand what I am accused of."
His colleague, Claudio Eva, was quoted as saying in The Guardian:
"(It is) a very Italian and medieval decision - I do not feel
guilty from a scientific point of view."
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at email@example.com)