Farcequake - news story - 23 Oct 2012
In April, 2009, there was a big earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy, that killed over 300 people. A team of seismologists had been gathered to assess the threat to the city in the time preceding the event. Small scale seismic activity made it clear the large fault was in motion, but the group felt that the smaller slips made it less likely there would be one big quake that would threaten the city and its people. This information was relayed to the general public by a government official, who - it was subsequently felt - put too positive a spin on the findings. As a result, the city was not evacuated, and when the quake came, it was with tragic results.
Whether there was pressure on the team - or official - to tone down the threat is not clear, but that most certainly has gone on in the past. The expense of evacuating a city is vast. The city was ruined, and its grieving people made homeless. An emergency camp was made for those who had lost their houses and everything they possessed. Silvio Berlusconi sent in a troupe of clowns to cheer them up. Mightily inappropriate, I thought. However, it seems those clowns also run the justice system.
The seismologists were put on trial for manslaughter to the incredulation of the geological world. I think everyone assued sense would be seen at some point, but the case made it to court and the geologists and public official were given six year sentences yesterday. A horrible miscarriage of justice to end what has been a very sorry tale. You can read a little more on the subject by clicking here and here.