The Italian judge who sentenced seven of the country’s natural disasters experts to six years in jail for manslaughter in connection with statements they made before the L’Aquila earthquake of 2009 has criticised the advice they gave as “vague, generic and ineffective”.

Explaining his judgment, Marco Billi, the judge who in October stunned the scientific world by handing down the sentences, said the experts had given reassuring statements in the days before the quake that might have led some residents to stay in their homes. “The assertions made concerning the assessment of risks connected to the seismic activity in the area around L’Aquila turned out to be completely vague, generic and ineffective,” Judge Billi wrote.

The earthquake which struck the town in the central Abruzzo region of Italy left 309 people dead and tens of thousands homeless. In his explanation the judge emphasised that the experts had not been sentenced for failing to predict the earthquake, a task he acknowledged was impossible.

The six seismologists and one government official sentenced, who were members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, will remain free pending the appeals process. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013

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