Venerdì, 19 Ottobre 2018

Experts quit over L'Aquila quake verdict amid global shock


Rome, October 23 - Some of Italy's top earthquake
experts resigned on Tuesday after a controversial manslaughter
verdict against seven of their colleagues in the catastrophic
L'Aquila quake of 2009.
Monday's ruling, in which seven top-level scientists and
public officials were found guilty in connection with the tremor
that killed more than 300 people, also spurred disbelief and
dismay across the global scientific community.
Physicist Luciano Maiani resigned as president of Italy's
principal natural-disaster risk-assessment body in the wake of
the sentence.
He told ANSA that he had decided to resign due to the
"impossibility for the Commission of being able to work with
serenity and provide the State with a high level of scientific
consultancy in such complex conditions".
The Commission's vicepresidente Mauro Rosi and its president
emeritus Giuseppe Zamberletti also stepped down.
One of the defendants was Mauro Dolce, director of the civil
protection department's seismic and volcanic risks office, who
also on Tuesday handed in his resignation.
On Monday a L'Aquila court sentenced seven scientists, all
members of the Commission on Major Risks at the time of the
earthquake, to six years in jail and barred them from public
office for allegedly providing "superficial and ineffective"
assessment of seismic risk and of disclosing "inaccurate,
incomplete and contradictory" information regarding earthquake
The trial focused on one event in particular, in which the
Committee on Major Risks met on March 31, 2009 in L'Aquila to
examine rumblings that had frightened residents for months.
In a memo, the experts concluded that it was "unlikely"
that there would be a major quake, though it stressed that the
possibility could not be ruled out.
One week later the 6.3-magnitude tremor hit, toppling
buildings, killing 309 people and displacing 65,000 more in and
around the city.
The national and international scientific community has
slammed the court verdict, saying it sets a dangerous precedent
as major earthquakes cannot be accurately predicted.
Meanwhile on Tuesday L'Aquila journalist Giustino Parisse
who lost his two sons and father in the earthquake wrote in the
Abruzzo paper Il Centro that he does not "feel able to take my
anger out on those men".
"I have shaken hands with some of them over the last few
months, including during the trial, and I did not find them to
be stained with blood. I saw fragile men who were perhaps aware
that they had made a mistake and for that reason were caught up
in the turmoil of a tragedy that also swept them away", he
The seven defendants are to appeal against the sentence in a
case that could be heard towards the end of next year.
It could take years if it goes on to to the third level of
appeal, at the Court of Cassation.


Scientists from the United States to Japan were shocked at
the ruling and expressed support for those convicted.
The verdict "came in the birthplace of Galileo, some things
never change," said an influential US body, the Union of
Concerned Scientists (UCS), referring to the great scientist who
was forced by the Inquisition to abjure his discoveries about
the solar system.
The UCS urged President Giorgio Napolitano to intervene in
the case, repeating the scientific community's view that it is
"impossible" to predict earthquakes.
The ruling was "absurd and dangerous," the UCS said.
The verdict also aroused concern in Japan where Shinichi
Sakai of the Earthquake Research Institute in Tokyo said he
would have taken the same defence line as the Italian
seismologists, because, he said, "it is not possible to say when
a strong tremor will occur.
"Imagine if the government filed criminal charges against a
meteorologist who was unable to forecast the exact path of a
tornado," Sakai said.
"Or an epidemiologist who didn't predict the dangerous
effects of a virus".
Reports of the verdict were splashed all over the Japanese
press, which recalled Japan's catastrophic quake and tsunami of
March 2011.
Sakai told ANSA that in Japan, a country that accounts for
20% of each year's worldwide quakes above magnitude 6, "there
have never been similar trials".
The science of predicting tremors, he said, "is today
considered very difficult, as a recent meeting of the
Seismological Society of Japan reaffirmed".
Among reactions in Italy Tuesday, scientists and opinion
leaders like House Speaker Gianfranco Fini called for the
sentence to be reviewed.
In the run-up to Monday's pronouncement by a L'Aquila judge,
the case had received widespread international attention, with
over 5,000 scientists from around the world signing a letter
supporting those on trial.

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