L'Aquila judge says 2009 earthquake was predictable

Explanation of December verdict on collapsed student housing

L'Aquila judge says 2009 earthquake was predictable

L'Aquila, May 16 - A judge on Thursday said the devastating 2009 earthquake in the central Italian city of L'Aquila was "by no means unpredictable". L'Aquila judge Giuseppe Grieco gave the explanation as a motivation for a sentence that in December convicted four defendants and cleared four in the collapse of a student housing complex during the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 300 people and left tens of thousands homeless in and around the central Abruzzo city on April 6, 2009. On the basis of a technical assessment, Grieco wrote that the quake could have been expected, ''having occurred in what is defined as a return period, meaning the period of time in which event repetition is expected for the L'Aquila area''. Grieco said L'Aquila's return period for earthquakes ''has been indicated to be about (every) 325 years from the year 1000,'' citing scientific consultant Luis Decanini. ''It was certainly not an exceptional earthquake for the L'Aquila territory and was very much in line with the historical seismicity of the area,'' Grieco continued. Grieco's findings were similar to those of his colleague, Marco Billi, the judge who ruled on alleged negligence by Italy's Commission on Major Risks. Billi ruled that members of the commission were criminally negligent for falsely reassuring the population just before the quake, which led many to not take the traditional precaution of evacuating their homes after tremors that preceded it. In October 2012, the L'Aquila court convicted seven former commission members to six years in prison, in a trial that focused on a commission meeting on March 31 in Aquila to examine rumblings that had frightened residents for months. The Italian scientists and officialswere convicted of manslaughter, including Enzo Boschi, former president of the National Geophysics and Vulcanology Institute. Boschi and others were also banned for life from public office. In his sentence the judge slammed the experts for making ''approximate, generic and ineffective'' statements that were unduly reassuring and did not reflect the real level of risk the population faced. All of the defendants have appealed against the verdict. In January, L'Aquila prosecutor Fabio Picuti requested charges be dropped against former civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso and former regional councillor Daniela Stati. The case, in which seven defendants argued it is impossible to predict a quake, received international attention, with over 5,000 scientists from around the world having signed a letter supporting those on trial. The convictions prompted physicist Luciano Maiani to resign as president of Italy's principal natural-disaster risk-assessment body, and drew bafflement from the Italian environment minister at the time, Corrado Clini, who also declared he hoped the convictions would be overturned on appeal.

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