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Italian scientists now not guilty of quake failure

earthquakelorcaA group of scientists in Italy sentenced to prison for failing to predict an earthquake has had that verdict overthrown.

The March 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila caused the deaths of 309 people as well as the destruction of many of the medieval town’s buildings.

The quake followed a number of tremors in the region. A committee was convened in L’Aquila to discuss the risk. Just days later, the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck.

Seven members of that committee, all experts, were tried, with the prosecution claiming that the reassuring messages given by the committee has resulted in multiple manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.

They were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in jail. They had also been ordered to pay more than €9m in damages to survivors.

Now an appeals court in Italy has cleared the group of manslaughter charges. The judge ruled that there was no case to answer.

The original verdicts had sparked worldwide condemnation as scientists protested that it was impossible for even the most experienced seismologists to forecast an earthquake.

Residents of L’Aquila who attended the appeals hearing were disappointed at the ruling, greeting it with cries of “Disgrace”.

L’Aquila has suffered at least 10 earthquakes since medieval times and in the worst disaster, in 1786, more than 6,000 people were killed.

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