Gavin Jones
Reuters
April 6, 2009

An Italian scientist predicted a major earthquake around L’Aquila weeks before disaster struck the city on Monday, killing dozens of people, but was reported to authorities for spreading panic among the population.

[efoods]The first tremors in the region were felt in mid-January and continued at regular intervals, creating mounting alarm in the medieval city, about 100 km (60 miles) east of Rome.

Vans with loudspeakers had driven around the town a month ago telling locals to evacuate their houses after seismologist Gioacchino Giuliani predicted a large quake was on the way, prompting the mayor’s anger.

Giuliani, who based his forecast on concentrations of radon gas around seismically active areas, was reported to police for “spreading alarm” and was forced to remove his findings from the Internet.

Italy’s Civil Protection agency held a meeting of the Major Risks Committee, grouping scientists charged with assessing such risks, in L’Aquila on March 31 to reassure the townspeople.

“The tremors being felt by the population are part of a typical sequence … (which is) absolutely normal in a seismic area like the one around L’Aquila,” the civil protection agency said in a statement on the eve of that meeting.

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