I’ve written about this a bit in the past, but today, the news came down that six scientists have been convicted of manslaughter in Italy for failing to predict that an earthquake was imminent after a series of small tremors was a precursor to a major earthquake that killed over 300 people. I have to say I am a bit sad that this was not the top news story this morning (I guess people care more about the fall from grace of Lance Armstrong), given how much of a miscarriage of justice this is. This is from a country that has failed to prosecute a certain former prime minister, so perhaps this is not surprising.
I have to keep this short, due to being busy before heading off to New Zealand next week. I recommend reading the reaction from several leading experts on earthquake hazards on livescience.com. Pretty much all of Italy is at risk of earthquakes due to the collision of Africa into Europe. The damage seen in the L’Aquila earthquake is mostly the result of poor planning to reinforce old buildings that were not designed to withstand an earthquake. I think this quote from the livescience.com article sums it up well:
Evacuation is typically not the best response to these small swarms, according to a 2010 article published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. That study found the likelihood of death for citizens in L’Aquila’s least-safe buildings was still only about one in 100,000 — a risk that’s better ameliorated by retrofitting dangerous buildings than evacuating entire towns for indeterminate lengths of time on the slight chance of a quake, the researchers concluded. (No charges have been brought in L’Aquila regarding building codes or standards.)