The second and third hearing of the Appeal trial (and about earthquake forecast and risk)

The second and thirs hearings were held on Friday, 17 and Saturday 18, October. It started with the pleadings of the lawyers of the relatives of the victims, all asking for the confirmation of the Sentence. One of the lawyer said that the defendants “should have told us what was going to happen and they did not. They should not forecast the earthquake, but to assess the risk instead”. This is one of the main points upon which the sentence has been built, but this phrase is much more direct than what is said in the Motivation of the Sentence by the judge: “the analisys to be performed in the 31 March 2009 meeting was not the deterministic earthquake forecast but the evaluation of the earthquake risk”. This phrase is repeated, cut and paste, several times in the Motivation.

The term “risk” is often misused in the current Italian language, indicating sometimes a probability of a negative event (“c’è rischio che piova = there is a risk of rain”). But in the Motivation the judge carefully explain that he makes reference to the operational definition: hazard x vulnerability x exposition.
Now, the L’Aquila seismic risk was very well known long before the beginning of the earthquake sequence, because the area is subjected to the building code (zone 2) since 1915 (see for explanation, in Italian). And when you are in an area subjected to the building code (in 2009 ruled by two laws, one of the State, one of the regional Government) this means that a strong earthquake may occur. There is no need for an expert meeting to assess it and, moreover, the earthquake risk cannot be assessed in detail in a n expert meeting. This is something that, according to the law, should have been performed well in advance by the Local and Regional Governments. As an example, the proceedings of a Workshop held at L’Aquila in 1989 (after a small earthquake which in 1985 caused light damage to the city) show a detailed map of the vulnerability of the buildings in the city centre. And the earthquake risk was high well before the beginning of the sequence and, according to the H x V x E definition it did not become higher because of the sequence.

So, coming back to what “they sould have told us”, there is only one thing “they” did not say: “when”. But this is earthquake forecast, in spite of all the efforts of prosecutors, judge and lawyers to avoid saying it, using the notion of risk instead. And it is to be remembered that, on  3 June 2010, the Head Prosecutor said that “It is not a matter of missing alert. The alert already came from the earthquake sequence. It is a matter of missing warning to leave homes.”

Next spoke the lawyers who defend the interest of the Italian State, who said that there was no “reassurance” “or don’t worry” by the defendants and that the bad communication was responsibility of the media, which caused a kind of “mediatic short circuit”. They asked forthe defendants to be sentenced not guilty.
Finally the defendant lawyers started their pleadings. First Stefàno, defendant of Eva, then Coppi for Selvaggi. Their words were so effective that the counterparts may ask for an opportunity to respond.




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