In at least two nations of the European Union, the notion that earthquakes are "natural disasters’ or "acts of God" is being challenged on a fundamental level. In both Italy and Spain, earthquakes — or their deadly effects — are being blamed on human activity, and six men now face lengthy prison sentences for deaths which resulted from one quake.
The prison sentences meted out to six scientists in an Italian court of law resulted from the deaths of more than 300 people in a 2009 quake in the city of L’Aquila. As CNN reported in an October 23 story, all six scientists were convicted of manslaughter in connection with the earthquake-related deaths:
The court in L'Aquila sentenced the scientists and a government official Monday to six years in prison, ruling that they didn't accurately communicate the risk of the earthquake in 2009 that killed more than 300 people.
The trial centered on a meeting a week before the 6.3-magnitude quake struck. At the meeting, the experts determined that it was "unlikely" but not impossible that a major quake would take place, despite concern among the city's residents over recent seismic activity.
Prosecutors said the defendants provided "inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory information about the dangers" facing L'Aquila.
In a world in which radical environmentalists seem prepared to blame every temperature fluctuation or freak storm on manmade global warming, the move to hold men criminally liable for an earthquake is perhaps not that hard to imagine. Nevertheless, the reaction of other scientists to the manslaughter convictions was noteworthy:
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