Earthquake-Rocked Italian City to Seismologists: "This Is Your Fault."

By Joseph Calamia | June 8, 2010 3:12 pm

italy-earthquakeWhat if an unknown researcher predicts an earthquake using a disfavored technique? If an earthquake then happens and hundreds die, should naysayer scientists go to jail?

Some in the city of L’Aquila, Italy answered that odd question with a resounding yes. An April 6, 2009 earthquake that was predicted by Giampaolo Giuliani killed 308 people. Now the city’s prosecutors are considering charging seven researchers at the National Geophysics and Vulcanology Institute (INGV) and members of the city’s Major Risks Committee with manslaughter.

The prosecutors say the committee could be considered criminally negligent for telling the townspeople that there was no need to evacuate. A formal investigation has been opened, but charges haven’t yet been filed.

As reported in Life in Italy:

“Those involved were highly qualified individuals who should have provided the public with different answers,” said L’Aquila’s chief prosecutor, Alfredo Rossini. “It was not the case that we received no warning, because there had already been tremors. However, the advice given was that there was no need for people to leave their homes”.

Giuliani, the man who predicted the quake, works at the National Laboratories at Gran Sasso, though he has been misreported in both Italian and American media outlets as a physicist, seismologist, and a collaborator with the National Institute of Nuclear Physics.  According to Science Insider, Giuliani’s work on earthquakes is a “hobby” and seismologists do not use the radon tests he cited, since  statistically they have failed to accurately predict quakes.

Related content:
80beats: Scientist Smackdown: Did a Seismologist Accurately Predict the Italian Quake?
80beats: Toads—Yes, Toads—May Know When an Earthquake Is Coming
80beats: Science Via Twitter: Post-Earthquake Tweets Can Provide Seismic Data
Bad Astronomy: Do rainbow clouds foretell earthquakes?

Image: United States Geological Survey

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Crime & Punishment
  • Doug from Dougland

    This is a dnagerous, dangerous precedent even if it amounts only to talk. Blaming people for not using a test that has been proven inaccurate and punishing them because of a correlation is the realm of politics, not science.

  • Doug from Dougland

    woops, *dangerous. There’s my dyslexic day of the moment…….

  • Brian Too

    “Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.”

    – attribution unknown.

  • Valentina

    I’m from Italy and somehow I lived the situation, even though I don’t actually live in L’Aquila.

    What happened is more complicated and not only scientists have been accused but also the head of “Protezione Civile” an Italian Agency in charge of Emergencies and Emergencies Prevention.

    I kept track of what might have really happened on some blogs and Italian newspapers that, unfortunately, are in Italian. If you are interested I can try to gather all the articles and posts I read in the past year.

  • Aaron Liang

    Dear Valentina:
    I come from Taiwan. I’m very interested about this News. Could you shear to me?


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