Uproar in Italy over Scientists Convicted for Not Predicting Earthquake

Jason Reed/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Italy is a tough place for scientists, especially those whose specialty is to predict earthquakes.

On Monday, a court convicted seven scientists and experts on manslaughter charges because they didn't foresee the 6.3-temblor that left over 300 people dead in the central town of L'Aquila in 2009.

All seven were sentenced to six years in prison, but will remain free pending an inevitable appeal of the conviction.

During the trial, the seismologists argued that the real culprit was the inferior construction of buildings in the town, which contributed to most of the deaths in L'Aquila.

The outcome of the trial has also led members of Italy's Major Risks Committee to resign in protest, charging that predicting earthquakes is virtually impossible and that early warning systems literally give people only up to 60 seconds to vacate buildings.

There are also fears that the convictions will frighten those with expertise in other areas not to share their advice with the Italian government, lest they be prosecuted if they're wrong.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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