Italian government asks earthquake experts to return to post

Top scientists stepped down after L'Aquila manslaughter sentence

Italian government asks earthquake experts to return to post

Rome, October 26 - The government on Friday asked members of Italy's principal natural-disaster risk-assessment body to return to their post after they resigned in protest against this week's conviction of former group members for manslaughter in connection with the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake that killed more than 300 people. Some of Italy's top earthquake experts resigned from their posts on Tuesday in protest at Monday's ruling, which spurred disbelief and dismay across the global scientific community. Environment Minister Corrado Clini said Wednesday that he was baffled by the ruling. "If it was because they did not predict (the earthquake), it would be absurd," he said. "I've never understood the accusation and therefore I don't understand the convictions". Sources told ANSA Friday it was Clini who asked to scrap their resignations as a sign of "solidarity with the scientific community on the part of the government". Sources said Clini had already refused to accept the resignation of Bernardo De Bernardinis, the head of Italy's Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), who was convicted Monday. On Tuesday physicist Luciano Maiani resigned as president of the Major Risks Commission in the wake of the sentence. He told ANSA that he had decided to resign due to the "impossibility for the commission of being able to work with serenity and provide the State with a high level of scientific consultancy in such complex conditions". The commission's vice-president, Mauro Rosi, and its president emeritus, Giuseppe Zamberletti, also stepped down. One of the defendants was Mauro Dolce, director of the civil protection department's seismic and volcanic risks office, who also on Tuesday tendered his resignation. On Monday a L'Aquila court sentenced seven scientists, all members of the commission at the time of the earthquake, to six years in jail and barred them from public office for allegedly providing "superficial and ineffective" assessment of seismic risk and of disclosing "inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory" information regarding earthquake danger. The trial focused on one event in particular, in which the commission 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.

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