An editorial in Saudi Gazette comments about the lack of exactitude in predictive sciences. While noting that weather predictions can be notoriously wrong, it criticizes the recent court decision in Italy to hold seismologists responsible for deaths that occurred in the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila. It refers, too, to the seismic activity in northwestern Saudi Arabia. At present, the best that can be done is monitoring the situation and making the best estimates of future activity. But estimates and predictions are not guarantees.
Not all science is exact
THE torrential rains that struck Rabigh Governorate on Sunday were forecast, though few could have imagined the extent of the subsequent flooding, which caused a family of five to be drowned in their vehicle.
The forecasters gave a reasonable warning. The tragedy is that the eight people who perished, together with a ninth victim, a brave young man who was swept away trying to save others, either did not hear the forecast or ignored the danger of being near wadis with the flash flooding during and after the downpour.
Certainly no one is going to blame the weather forecasters for this disaster. In Italy, however, six seismologists and a government official have been jailed for six years for failing to predict the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake in which 309 people perished.
Only days before the 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the town, these scientists had assured the locals that there was no cause for alarm at the series of mini earthquakes that had been striking the region for months.
Indeed it was their view that the minor tremors were probably a promising development, since they were releasing pressure in the earth’s crust and therefore diminishing the chances of a big earthquake.
They were to be proven tragically wrong. As a result, they were arrested and charged with manslaughter and on Monday were found guilty by a court in L’Aquila