Thursday, February 14, 2013

About the l'Aquila Case: YES Bloggers react (Eng)


Sandra Villacorta and Jersy Mariño – INGEMMET (Geological Service of Peru)

For geoscientists working in Risk Management and are public servants whose function is to give advice in situations of risk, it pays to know this fact and discuss the details of the fault.
The morning of April 6, 2009, an earthquake measuring 6.3 degrees on the Richter scale killed 309 people and injured 1,500 in the city of L'Aquila, in The Abruzzo Region (Italy).

The disaster and condemnation
After the investigation, which began after the tragedy, the scientists of the scientific committee (called Major Risks Committee) who advised Civil Protection officials who attended the emergency, were brought to a trial that began on September 20, 2009 and resolved this year, in a controversial ruling of italian judge Marco Billi. The seven scientists from the commission were sentenced to six years in prison for multiple manslaughter. According to the judge, the information that the experts provided the neighbors were "inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory."

What is wrong?
According to the local press that community had implemented preventive actions (evacuation) where seismic crisis began. However, when the emergency occurred Civil Protection officials advised by the Major Risks Committee, said that "the shock wave is something that no alarm technicians .... think it is a favorable situation that the earth moves, is sign that the earthquake is losing strength.." Apparently, after looking statements to evacuate the settlers left their homes (old and rustic material), which was the main cause of death of over 300 people.
The sentence does not refer explicitly to any negligence, but the inaccuracy of the information furnished by the scientific committee. However it dont be warned that earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, etc. are phenomena that occur in natural systems as complex whose uniqueness is that precise predictions are impossible.

What implications does this have?
It is natural to have different views on the issue, but beyond that, this fact inevitably affects future opinions or judgments of scientific research.
Ultimately this sentence marks a negative precedent for the progress of science and society in general, and that will cause no scientist wants to accept a position as an advisor to the civilian population or to reveal the results of their scientific research to the public civil. In other cases the reports would cause scientists to the community tend to be oversized for the failure to acquire some responsibility on the results of the studies.

And who would be the culprit?
The Risk Reduction is a process where many institutions and individuals involved, but all with different skills in order to avoid disaster. But usually when a disaster happens, everybody wants to find a culprit when this is manifold. The demand charge any price causes innocent become "scapegoats" offered to civilians for peace of mind. It is the problem of a misinformed public and cultured worse.
A scientific committee is not infallible, is an advisory in the hands of the administration has proposed. However, the responsibilities for making decisions are not in the scientists, but the administration in power. The question, then this topic has been the bad communication. Again comes out the importance of communication between the scientific community and society at large.

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