Reflections on the Trial of the "L'Aquila Seven"


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Reflections on the Trial of the "L'Aquila Seven"

  1. 1. Reflections on the Trial of the "LAquila Seven", and ItsSignificance for the Earth Sciences David Alexander University College London
  2. 2. NB: This presentationcan be downloaded onyour mobile phone
  3. 3. You may find what I have to say a bitarrogant and possibly objectionable. I dont care!
  4. 4. Disclaimer: it is not my intention to "hold the trial all over again"or comment on the rights or wrongs of the sentence.
  5. 5. Main conclusion:- If some of the scientists whocommented "authoritatively" onthis trial and its outcome were to apply the same levels ofslapdash superficiality to their own work, science would beseriously in disrepute.
  6. 6. "The charges against these scientists are both unfair and naïve." "The basis for these indictments appears to be that the scientists failed to alert the population of LAquila of an impending earthquake.""It is manifestly unfair for scientists to be criminally charged for failing to act uponinformation that the international scientific community would consider inadequate as a basis for issuing a warning."
  7. 7. "Dr. Tom Jordan, the director of theSouthern California Earthquake Center, told CBS News, This trial has raised huge concerns within the scientific community because here you have a number of scientists who are simply doing their job being prosecuted for criminal manslaughter and I think that scares all of us who are involved in risk communication." (CBS News, 22 October 2012)
  8. 8. "Its a sad day for science," said seismologist Susan Hough, of theU.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif. Its unsettling. That fellowseismic experts in Italy were singledout in the case hits you in the gut, Hough added." (WKYC News,, "Italian court convicts 7 for no quake warning")
  9. 9. Scientists arethoroughlyclannish:they bandtogetherto resistperceivedexternalthreats
  10. 10. My involvement• directed research project on Aquila quake, including UNIVAQ researchers• did 3 years research on Aquila deaths see• know all the defendents personally and have worked with several of them• talked at length to the consultants who prepared the basis for prosecution• was a homeless survivor of 1980 quake.
  11. 11. Room with a view....
  12. 12. I also investigated this case in LAquila:-The people went backinside, and this iswhere they died.
  13. 13. My main conclusion:- "Events in LAquila after the 6th April2009 earthquake can only be understood by using political logic, which often diverges from common sense logic."
  14. 14. Alexander, D.E. 2010. The LAquilaearthquake of 6 April 2009 and ItalianGovernment policy on disaster response.Journal of Natural Resources PolicyResearch 2(4): 325-342.Alexander, D.E. 2012. An evaluation ofthe medium-term recovery process afterthe 6 April 2009 earthquake in LAquila,central Italy. Environmental Hazards:Human and Policy Dimensions 11: 1-13.
  15. 15. Sabina Guzzanti
  16. 16. But what actually happened?
  17. 17. LAquila (AQ) Abruzzo Region pop. 72,800Historical city
  18. 18. The earthquake03.32 hrs, Monday 6 April 2009Magnitude: Mw 6,3Duration: circa 25 sec.Acceleration on hard rock: 0,3gAcceleration on sediments: 0,7-1,0gPart of an earthquake swarm that began in October 2008.
  19. 19. Deaths: 308 (299)Injuries: 1,500 (202 serious, & 898 triaged)Homeless people: 67,000Tent camps: 171Tents: 5,700 (for 8 people each)
  20. 20. Gioacchino Giampaolo Giulianiamateur earthquake prediction scientist
  21. 21. Gran Sasso dItalia
  22. 22. 65 km
  23. 23. National Major Risks CommissionLAquila crisis meeting, LAquila 31-3-2009
  24. 24. "Professor Barberi concludes that there is no reason forsaying that a sequence of low magnitude shocks could be considered the precursor of a strong event."
  25. 25. David Alexander says earthquakes cant be Hon. Ignazio La Russa, predicted, and hesMinister of Defence one of the greatest living earthquake scientists andworks for the United Nations
  26. 26. I said* that the question of whetheran earthquake can be predicted inthe short term is irrelevant: becauseif there isnt the civil protectionsystem to back it up with positiveactions to protect the population,then the prediction can be positivelydamaging!*to Deutsche Welle
  27. 27. Technical Organisational Social Hazard Decision to warn Warning GeneralScientists Administrators Public RiskEvaluation communication Protective action The warning process
  28. 28. BernardoDe Bernadinis Enzo Boschi Mauro Dolce Claudio Eva Franco Barberi Giulio Selvaggi Gian Michele Calvi
  29. 29. Crucial aspect: the violent foreshock of 00:30 hrs, three hours before the main shock - people left their homes. In Paganica the civil protection servicesent around a loudspeaker van to reassure people and tell them to go home and stop worrying. They did. Five died and 40 were seriously injured.
  30. 30. Weakest point in the prosecutions case:the link between official pronouncements and peoples behaviour that led to deaths and injuries.
  31. 31. Six years for each defendent.
  32. 32. Context: "the absence of informationmust be distinguished from the wronginformation" - Dr Antonello Ciccozzi
  33. 33. Context: tension betweenthe legislature and judiciary
  34. 34. Context: an assault on "The Caste"
  35. 35. Context: the Major Risks Commission has since behaved impeccably
  36. 36. International reaction to thetrial and sentence: analogies• "Crusading" against modern Islam in the Middle East• UK academic boycott of Israel• others...?.
  37. 37. Other scandals and trials are in the works
  38. 38. €1,427 per base isolator, €55,000 per building
  39. 39. A message to scientists: find outthe whole story before pontificatingto the mass media and authorities: in cases like LAquila, context is all important.