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The decision to hand six year jail sentences to six seismologists for underestimating the risk of an earthquake that struck Italy three years ago has been widely condemned.

Fellow scientists say they are horrified by the manslaughter verdict. Charlotte Krawczyk, President of the Seismology Division at the European Geosciences Union complained: “It’s not just seismology which has been put on trial but all science.”

Professor Mike Bickle of the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University said: “People are stunned.” US scientists from the Union of Concerned Scientists also denounced the ruling as absurd and ridiculous.

There are fears now the ruling could create a ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation where scientists will raise the alarm at the slightest sign of trouble meaning people will no longer believe their warnings, which could be very dangerous.

“Too harsh”

Ordinary Italians were also troubled by the verdict, such as Gabriella Rava who lives in Rome and who said: “I think it’s a very bad verdict. I think it puts too much pressure on scientists if the message is that now they need to predict damage and death.

Livio Bonelli expected the scientists to be punished but not as severely as they have been: “I think the court was too harsh because the event was unpredictable. Yet, I must say that being experts they could have done more.”

The seismologists, who have also been ordered to pay nine million euros to survivors, were members of the Major Risks Committee which met in L’Aquila.

They convened six days before a 6.3 magnitude quake hit the region killing 309 people and leaving thousands homeless.

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