Thursday, 9 April 2009


Monday's earthquake in Italy has left over 200 dead, many more injured and thousands homeless. Towns and villages were devastated. The timing of the quake, in the early hours of the morning, must have been a factor in the number of deaths, but the fact is that there is still no reliable way of accurately predicting an event.

I did see the story of a seismologist who had measured increased levels of radon gas emissions in the days preceding the earthquake. He was convinced something was coming, and felt his advice was going unheeded. He took to driving around the streets with a megaphone, trying to warn people to leave the area. It's a sad tale, but imagine what your reaction would be to that scene. Disbelief, at least. Concern for his sanity, possibly.

The truth is that it's an incredibly tricky business, seismology. Many influencing factors, unpredicability of timescales, and then the difficulty experienced by the frantic Italian in his van. Who will believe you? Err on the side of caution and you cost thousands of people time, money and inconvenience. And run the risk of crying wolf. Err on the side of negligence and the risks are considerably higher. Thankless task.

I read today that the Italians authorities are flying in dozens of clowns to go round the temporary camps 'entertaining' people. That's terrifying. You've lost your home and everything you own. You and your family are living in a tent, surrounded by hundreds of other shell-shocked families in tents. And then round the corner, through the rubble, comes a gang of twenty clowns.

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