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U.S. scientists criticise L'Aquila quake convictions

Appeal to president to intervene

23 October, 12:08
U.S. scientists criticise L'Aquila quake convictions (ANSA) - Rome, October 23 - An influential body of US scientists on Tuesday criticised the Monday convictions of seven Italian scientists and officials to six years in prison for manslaughter over a 2009 earthquake in the central city of L'Aquila that killed over 300 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

The Union of Concerned Scientists urged President Giorgio Napolitano to intervene in the case, repeating the scientific community's view that it is "impossible" to predict earthquakes.

The verdict also spurred concern in Japan where Shinichi Sakai of the Earthquake Research Institute in Tokyo said he would have taken the same defence line as the Italian seismologists, because, he said, "it is not possible to say when a strong tremor will occur".

In Italy Tuesday, scientists and opinion leaders like House Speaker Gianfranco Fini called for the sentence to be reviewed.

In the run-up to Monday's pronouncement by a L'Aquila judge, the case had received widespread international attention, with over 5,000 scientists from around the world signing a letter supporting those on trial.

The trial focused on one event in particular, in which the Committee on Major Risks met on March 31, 2009 in L'Aquila to examine rumblings that had frightened residents for months.

In a memo, the experts concluded that it was "unlikely" that there would be a major quake, though it stressed that the possibility could not be ruled out.

One week later the 6.3-magnitude tremor hit, toppling buildings, killing 309 people and displacing 65,000 more in and around the city.