An Italian court on Monday found six scientists and an official guilty of manslaughter for failing to properly warn residents about the risk of an impending earthquake that killed more than 300 people in 2009. Each of the defendants was sentenced to six years in prison, but the sentences are not carried out until affirmed on appeal. “I don’t even understand what I am accused of,” said Enzo Boschi, former head of Italy's National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology.
"It's a sad day for science," said seismologist Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena.
"We know that the system in Italy for communicating risk before the L'Aquila earthquake was flawed, but this verdict will cast a pall over any attempt to set up a better one. I'm afraid that many scientists are learning to keep their mouths shut," said Thomas Jordan, an earth scientist at USC and the director of the Southern California Earthquake Center. "This won't help those of us who are trying to improve how risks from natural hazards are communicated between scientists and the public."
Photo: Quake damage in the medieval city of L'Aquila. Franco Volpato / Shutterstock