Man! I would have expected this from Germans! But Italians! Cut a brother a break! Predicting natural disasters – whether earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, or the Mets — is tough work. It’s not like being a Long Island psychic. (“Has someone close to you recently passed? They want you to know they’re OK. You, on the other hand, are a gullible idiot.”)
After all, the earth has reasons that Reason does not know. I don’t care how many meter gizmos you have.
Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L’Aquila.
A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.
Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defence maintained there was no way to predict major quakes.
The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people.
Many smaller tremors had rattled the area in the months before the quake that destroyed much of the historic centre.
It took Judge Marco Billi slightly more than four hours to reach the verdict in the trial, which had begun in September 2011.
Lawyers have said that they will appeal against the sentence. As convictions are not definitive until after at least one level of appeal in Italy, it is unlikely any of the defendants will immediately face prison.
I wrote about the quake when it was first reported, and the catastrophe itself is certainly no joke. But . . . shall we extend this level of culpability to meteorologists? Can you sue if your weather guy predicts sun yet your daughter’s wedding gets carried off into the nearest reservoir by Noahic flooding?
Reacting to the verdict against him, Bernardo De Bernardinis said: “I believe myself to be innocent before God and men.”
“My life from tomorrow will change,” the former vice-president of the Civil Protection Agency’s technical department said, according to La Repubblica.
“But, if I am judged by all stages of the judicial process to be guilty, I will accept my responsibility.”
I think Bernie’s got it right. Invoke God. Because these are acts of God. So the buck has to stop somewhere further up the food chain.
Never fear, fellow scientists are coming to the Italians’ aid:
The case has alarmed many in the scientific community, who feel science itself has been put on trial.
Some scientists have warned that the case might set a damaging precedent, deterring experts from sharing their knowledge with the public for fear of being targeted in lawsuits, the BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome reports.
Among those convicted were some of Italy’s most prominent and internationally respected seismologists and geological experts.
Earlier, more than 5,000 scientists signed an open letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in support of the group in the dock.
After the verdict was announced, David Rothery, of the UK’s Open University, said earthquakes were “inherently unpredictable”.
“The best estimate at the time was that the low-level seismicity was not likely to herald a bigger quake, but there are no certainties in this game,” he said.
Exactly. If you want certainty, consult a psychic. But bring cash.