A short post to state that Earthquake-report.com also expresses outrage and disappointment with the conviction of the 6 expert scientists and 1 government official who were on the board deciding on the action of small earthquakes before the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009.
The 6 experts and a government official were all sentenced to six years in prison on multiple manslaughter charges by Judge Marco Billi on Monday afternoon.
They were sentenced to six years in jail in a watershed ruling in a case that has and should provoke outrage in the international science community.
The experts were also ordered to pay more than 9 million euros ($11.7 million) in damages to survivors and inhabitants. Under the Italian justice system, the seven will remain free men until they have exhausted two chances to appeal the verdict – one of which will hopefully overturn the decision.
The prosecution argued that the defendants gave “inexact, incomplete and contradictory information” about whether smaller tremors that preceded the quake were a sign that a major disaster was about to strike.
When looking at probabilities of earthquakes, there is no prediction method that will ever tell you with exact certainty whether an earthquake will occur tomorrow or in 1000 years. The probabilities remain so low, that only tiny changes may be able to be made.
If scientists and earthquake engineers in the future are unable to explain the concept of ‘probability’ to people in other fields and the public without reprisal then how will we ever alert the public or make scientific breakthroughs in the field of earthquake engineering.
This sets a very dangerous precedent for giving advice and earthquake-report.com also fears it will discourage other scientists from offering their advice on natural hazards and trying to help society in this way.
Quoting from an article in Huffington Post, Dr Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey was equally shocked at the verdicts. He said: “This is a very sad business indeed. These are people I know, who were doing their best to give an accurate account of large earthquakes. It seems to be wrong that they should be prosecuted for offering scientific advice to the best of their ability.”
Just some final points:-
1. We need to teach the concept of probability better in schools, kindergartens so that everyone understands what a 1 in 10000 chance actually means in the next year. It should be taught when fractions are learnt!
2. Italian Seismology has been thrown back into the dark ages with this court judgement, because what 6 scientists said at the meeting, every seismologist, earthquake engineer and person would agree with.
3. Again, earthquake-report.com is shocked, outraged and disappointed by this judgement.
A group of bloggers has just started a Facebook group to protest against this incredible verdict. Become a fan and distribute the message as much as you can.
About the controversy that the trial was about “communication” and not “prediction” (after a number of these comments ):
l’Aquila was and is a high risk area and building code is since long active for this area, THUS EVERYBODY did know that they are living in a high risk area. Politicians ask answers from science which do not exist at the moment.
This trial should NOT have taken place. Everybody living in an area of several 100 km near known fault lines do have to know about this risk, how to build and act if an earthquake strikes. Schools should learn students from Kindergarden on how they should behave.
The scientists have been prosecuted because they were pressed to make statements about the risk, which they gave to their best knowledge. Everybody working on earthquake risks and frequency is now a possible target for justice.
The judge should have said :
EARTHQUAKES CANNOT BE PREDICTED IN STRENGTH, TIMING, FREQUENCY AND PEOPLE LIVING IN FAULTING AREAS SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN CHARGING EXPERTS. Should you accept the same trial in San Fransico or San Jose, California ? This trial has been a tragedy for the people who suffered killed family members and who had severe damage.
Tomorrow the same will happen somewhere else in the world.
Earthquake-Report is making it one of his goals to learn tourists travelling to earthquake areas to know how to behave. Travel organizations are DEAF to our claim. Should they be brought to justice ? ONLY 0.001% of the tourists from non-earthquake areas do know what to do! We try to make them understand that giving a 1 minute lecture in a tourist bus would not harm tourism.