Five Italian seismologists and a government official are on trial for manslaughter for not predicting a major earthquake that hit a town in April of 2009. Seismologists have sort of a different job in Italy!
At the time of the 31 March 2009 meeting, seismic activity had been going on in the area for more than three months, causing alarm in the population. [Civil Protection official Bernardo] De Bernardinis summoned the meeting and asked the scientists to assess the risk of a major earthquake and its possible consequences. The meeting was followed by a press conference by De Bernardinis and Barberi, where the two reassured the population that the seismic sequence did not necessarily hint at a major earthquake. De Bernardinis, in particular, appeared on television saying that "the scientific community tells me there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favorable". A major earthquake did hit on April 6 though, killing 309 people. In the aftermath, many citizens quoted those statements as the reason they did not take precautionary measures, such as fleeing their homes. According to the accusation, many people who would otherwise leave the area decided to stay, and were eventually killed in the collapse of their houses.
Well, it's good to know that people who don't understand that you can't predict earthquakes is an international phenomenon, not just an American one.
[via TechDirt, image via Getty]