Charges to be dropped in Italy quake

Jan. 30, 2013 at 11:56 AM
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L'AQUILA, Italy, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- An Italian prosecutor asked charges be dropped Wednesday against two officials for issuing faulty statements about an earthquake that later turned deadly.

A week after minimizing the possibility of a major quake, a massive tremor hit the area of L'Aquila, killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Prosecutor Fabio Picuti said he had requested charges be dismissed against former civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso and regional councilor Daniela Stati. The two had been under investigation for manslaughter and unintentional injury.

They had been part of a committee that evaluated the risk of an earthquake after a series of tremors had shaken the region for months. The committee issued a statement saying the risk of a quake was "unlikely" but did not rule out the possibility.

Six days later, on April 6, 2009, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the area, killing 309 people and leaving 65,000 without homes.

In the resulting outcry, seven Italian scientists and officials were sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter. The former president of the National Geophysics and Vulcanology Institute, Enzo Boschi, was among those jailed.

More than 5,000 scientists from around the world signed a letter supporting the assertions by Boschi and the other defendants that it is impossible to predict an earthquake.

Following the convictions, physicist Luciano Maiani resigned as president of the country's principal agency that assessed the risk of natural disasters.

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