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Scientists on trial for manslaughter in Italy for failure to warn residents about quake

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The only answer is to say that death is knocking on the door in all situations.

what it called an unprecedented legal attack on science.

Not unprecedented. More like medieval.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Leopalacesux, you're right. I don't know who they got running the show over there but it seems like they want to see a public hanging.

Dude, it's an earthquake. As Ishihara and Bachman both agree. "It's divine punishment"

Okay well if Italy's judicial system continues on this course of action maybe all those seismologists will pray for more divine punishment. There's your advance warning.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Now that is crazy.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

They are experts paid and educated by the people. It was their job to warn the people. But they did the opposite and lied to the people and now 300 are dead. They should not tell people false information. Otherwise no scientist can ever be trusted. At the very least they should be jailed as an example of how serious their job is and a lesson on responsibility. Charging them with murder is a bit steep though, if they started doing that there would be no weather forecasters on NHK.

-7 ( +0 / -8 )

First of all, if these natural disasters were really "divine punishment" then why are these useless politicians still alive?

Second, isn't Italy wooing foreign countries to try and keep from going bankrupt? I don't think this is the best way of doing it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Agree with all of the above.. seriously, you want them to be able to predict what each and every ground tremor is?.. whats next, they're supposed to predict hurricanes/typhoons from rainstorms?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Many of the structures that collapsed in the 2009 quake were not properly built to standards for a quake-prone area like the central Apennine region of Abruzzo. Among the buildings which cracked and crumbled was L’Aquila’s hospital, just as it was struggling to treat about 1,500 injured.

Then why are they only putting seismologists on trial? Why not structural engineers, architects, and officials who oversee the management of building code regulations as well? Seems to me that these seismologists are simply being made scapegoats in all of this.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This is completely dumb. The scientists never said they are able to predict earthquakes nor that they will save anyone.

Instead, build your buildings to withstand strong earthquakes and always keep food/water in reserve.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Look deeper into this story. Of course we can only make predictions, but these so called experts, in an official capacity, public ally reassured the public that there was no chance of an earthquake. If they were real scientists, they would of said, yes it is possible, please take suitable measures.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

This is shocking, I thought America was bad with courts but this trial is outright wrong.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Perhaps they should put the Church on trial because of God?

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Wow... I am at a loss for words...

I mean... wow...

Really? .... Really?

"Perhaps they should put the Church on trial because of God?"

Hear hear. Acts of God have claimed as many lives as this earthquake... like... say... this earthquake, which is an "Act of God"

Let's trial the Pope...

I mean.... Really?!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Like Greece it seems Italy is also now a failed state.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Wasre of public money, the prosecuters are going to lose the case

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As long as the trial is fair and about establishing the truth I don't see a problem. If what they said was based on solid science of that time and they didn't mislead the public on purpose they will be acquitted. If, however, they were corrupted or told to play down the risk of a major earthquake they should be punished for lying. In any case they should have known better than saying there was absolutely no danger since "no one can predict an earthquake". Once again the arrogance and hubris of man has led to tragedy.

Nevertheless, are there any sufficient grounds to believe they were lying on purpose or in disagreement with the facts? The article doesn't mention it, so I fear the public is looking for a scapegoat.

In an interesting parallel with Japan, what about punishing those who ignored the risks of building a nuclear power station in an earthquake and tsunami prone region and lied it was perfectly safe?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I predict that everyone reading JT will never be the victim of a natural disaster from this point on. If you believe this, sent 50, 000 USD to my bank account...and good luck suing me later.

Not that I am a "buyer beware" sort of dude, but anybody that believed the seismologists best guess was an idiot, especially since they said clearly the possibility of a major quake could not be excluded. If someone says 90 percent chance of nothing, you can't go after them if fate instead goes with the 10 percent. That is just the way life is.

As for relaxing and having some good red wine, that goes for pretty much everyday. Anyone that did not already prepare for a quake in Italy is also an idiot. Hell, I am an idiot. I am not very prepared for a quake either. But you won't find me suing anyone for my own idiocy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What really is not being discussed (and should be) is the fact that Guiliani, a scientist who warned that an earthquake was imminent, was persecuted and even sought after by local govt officials who insisted he was trying to cause panic. They censored his online video (by demanding he remove it) saying it was to going to create panic. Now he stands completely justified, and look at the fink scientists who told people to sit back and drink. This is just like those nuclear spokesmen who said, "Don't worry. Fukushima radiation is good for you. Don't panic or flee. EAT the food." Oh, and don't forget "there’s absolutely no concern with the levels of radiation in Fukushima. He says that mothers, even mothers exposed to 100 millisieverts, pregnant mothers, will not have any effect, health effect. Remember the number 100", paraphrase of Dr. Shinuchi Yamashita. Wait and see if the lawsuits don't start in Japan over criminal negligence.

The trend is to ignore and ostracise those who tell the truth and promote the people who mislead.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Perhaps they should put the Church on trial because of God?

After all the misfortune that seems to befall Japan these days - why not sue God (or Buddha/any other deity)? Some higher power should be held to account in a court of law!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For all the posters on here with the quick trigger fingers, can't imagine how mad you must be with TEPCO, IAEA, nuclear/industry saftey ministry, etc. For that is a far more clear-cut case of criminal negligence, nepotism, etc.

...even six months worth of low-magnitude temblors was not unusual in the highly seismic region

That is the clincher right there.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

anyway my point is that these aren't scientists who just didn't know better. THey did know better and tried to arrest the one scientist who was putting his career at risk y warning people. This has nothing to do with a witch hunt.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Rather, he said, because of the failure of the scientists to say a significant quake could be possible, victims and their relatives missed a chance to take preventative measures.

How many thousands of years have they had quakes?

They missed a chance?

What a game.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This is shocking, I thought America was bad with courts but this trial is outright wrong.

LOL! Sounds like court cases which resulted in instituting dumb warning labels such as "Don't use for drying pets" (on microwave ovens), or "Remove baby before folding" (on a collapsible baby stroller). I guess the world is becoming a place where people have to be constantly coddled and warned about everything. Otherwise, if something happens, no matter how divine or uncontrollable it may be, people feel they have a right to blame someone for it (and in many cases sue).

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Japan Girl, this is not quite correct.

"Rather, he said, because of the failure of the scientists to say a significant quake could be possible, victims and their relatives missed a chance to take preventative measures."

TO all else here, this statement is utterly false. The telegraph had this article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/5114139/Italian-earthquake-experts-warnings-were-dismissed-as-scaremongering.html The WSJ says he was FORCED to remove his video warning http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/04/06/seismologist-was-forced-to-remove-italy-earthquake-warning-from-the-internet/ The NYTimes, Time magazine and many others covered this. Sorry, but this is bad reporting and some of you posting comments need to research the topic before commenting.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I lived in Italy for about three years and a major problem with some of the towns and villages is the age of many of the buildings.

around the medieval town of L’Aquila, which was largely reduced to rubble.

I think this is just a government cop-out to point the finger at someone else.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Victimhood has really been making great strides lately.

They never said that there's a hundred percent chance there would be NO earthquake. They just said low probability. I can't believe this is even making it to court. Of course, some people will be keen to blame ALL of their problems on somebody else. When a majority in any society reach this point of victimhood, then society is truly doomed.

It was an act of nature. People were killed. It's part of life. Get over it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“We all know well that earthquakes cannot be predicted. This is not in the point here,” said Vincenzo Vittorini, a relative of a victim, who attended the trial.

Rather, he said, because of the failure of the scientists to say a significant quake could be possible, victims and their relatives missed a chance to take preventative measures.

If we all know well that earthquakes cannot be predicted, how exactly was this person expecting scientists to say a significant quake could be possible?

This case does not seem to make any sense at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This just sounds like a witch-hunt to me so that they can blame it on someone. There's no way seismologists can accurately predict an earthquake save for perhaps a mere few seconds before it happens, so I'm at a loss while they're being held responsible. If they failed to warn people of the after-effects -- say, an approaching tsunami, spewing radiation -- I can see it, but then it wouldn't entirely be their fault, would it? Also, why on earth are they being blamed for deaths caused by shoddy building?

There's no way in hell they should be found guilty.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's the fault's fault, not the seismologists'. They'd do just as well to sue Earth itself.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm glad this case has been properly and responsibly persued by the public persecutors, er, - ahem - prosecutor's office.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mother nature is very strong, do not mess with her, and do not try and take her to court amigos over in Italia.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

the scientists estimated the probability of a disastrous earthquake to be about 2%, following the three months of small tremors (seismic swarms). However, a laboratory technician without solid scientific background starte making alarmist predictions based on radon gas measurements, which were never scientifically proved, neither rigorously researched or published in a peer-reviewed journal (just the usual internet pseudoscience). People panicked. Based on the 2% risk factor estimated by the scientists, the authorities tried to calm the population, to the the extend of underestimating the risk factor. People relaxed, and when the big tremor came they were caught unprepared. (summarized from the latest issue of Nature) I don't see how the scientists are to blame for estimating a risk factor based on the present knowledge. The authorities trying to play down that factor have some part of the blame, but it's a tough decision to evacuate a city for a 2% factor risk (as a note, elsewhere authorities have been sued for making people evacuate based on a low risk factor estimate). They should have clearly states that the risk factor is small, but it's not 0, so be prepared, but they were trying too hard to calm the population after the net rumors. And the most to blame are the city officials, who despite living in one of the hottest seismic spots in Europe, did nothing to reinforce those buildings. (as a note, the city was completely destroyed in 1461 and in 1703 by earthquake)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"I'm glad this case has been properly and responsibly persued by the public persecutors, er, - ahem - prosecutor's office."

Agreed. Nobody thais intellectually challenged should be prosecuting anything.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's impossible to predict when a huge earthquake occurs even by using today's cutting-edge techniques. Only if the scientists had declared that they can predict an earthquake with 100% accuracy or had have intention to deceive, they could be blamed of this result. But I think they never said such ridiculous words. If they are found guilty, all seismologists will have no choice other than saying that all residents should evacuate whenever they are asked about a huge earthquake.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If the government wins this case, seismologists will have to warn about major earthquakes everywhere all the time, making such warning smeaningless. Talk about stupidity.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

maybe this can be telco

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What they will win with that trial is that experts will avoid working on earthquakes. No more informations will collected nor given.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What if the scientists warned the residents of a big imminent quake and nothing happened? Are the prosecutors going to charge them for giving false information? This is a natural disaster and there is nothing "absolute" about it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unbelievable they are trying to pin this on the scientists rather than the poor standard of buildings. I could understand this maybe 500 years ago, but now? Witch hunt is the word. The sad fact is that there is almost never a way to know which tremor will turn out to be a larger quake and even less how to know where exactly it will be significantly large. People can't live on edge the whole time- all that can be done is offer optional evacuations, or say there is some risk, but more to the point, strengthen buildings just in case and have procedures for getting out of harms way as soon as possible if one does hit.

Also, anyone in a quake-prone region should as a matter of course have some emergency sup;plies, torch, water, etc, but with the knowledge that it could come at any time so better to be prepared.

But what @beangry says is of interest. It is always possible that unconventional scientists may stumble upon a useful truth before their findings are properly peer reviewed. The problem is, when to evacuate and how long for? All people can do is prepare and in the case of medieval cities, I wonder how muc can realistically be done to shore up the ancient buildings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

CrazyJoe, actually it has been a case where the officials were sued for evacuating people based on a low risk factor. Teachmeteachyou, the problem with unconventional scientists is that most of them are charlatans with a "spectacular" approach to science targeted to fame and money; you will always find them on the net predicting earthquakes, end of the world, alien invasion and so on. No decision maker in his right mind will evacuate thousands or more people every time such an "expert" makes a prediction. even if some of them may turn right and their theories may prevail, a decision maker has to rely on current accepted knowledge and theories. Anybody can submit a theory to a specialty journal where it will be peer-reviewed and then discussed/proved/disproved in the scientific community, but somehow these "experts" always avoid the scientific debate

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not much science in seismology because noone and no probes have been down more than a few kilometres in the earth. Remote sensing without proofing- e.g. comparison to rock samples is nearly worthless. Any petrophysicist could tell you that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Italy has a serious problem understanding science. This is the land where Galileo was tried, isn't it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'd like to bring to trial those responsible for bringing these scientists to trial.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is a good way to drive these scientists out of Italy, find them guilty and watch them leave country or find a new job. The Italian government is quite mad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You're right GoGoGo...it does sound like something the United States court system would come up with. This is as close to blaming humans for a natural catastrophe! I wonder if anyone should be tried in Japan for the earthquake and tsunami. I mean really, blame scientists for failing to adequately notify prior to an earthquake. Perhaps reassign them, retrain them, but try them in a court? WTF!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These crazy Italians! I thought my beloved Mexico was nuts but I guess they beat us at having no respect for modern science??

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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