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Charges considered over L'Aquila earthquake

Seven Italian officials are under investigation for manslaughter for failing to give the citizens of L'Aquila warning before last April's earthquake. The disaster killed more than 300 people and razed the medieval city to the ground.

The investigation was opened when around 30 citizens of the stricken city made an official complaint suggesting the civil protection officials had painted an overly reassuring picture of the earthquake risk after a meeting that took place just six days before the event on 6 April.

In the six months leading up to the earthquake, there had been a series of smaller seismic movements, including a small quake measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale on 30 March, just a day before the experts met in L'Aquila to discuss the risk.

One of the officials present at the 31 March meeting, Franco Barberi, of the Civil Protection agency's commission on major risk, said there was "no reason to suppose a sequence of small earthquakes could be the prelude to strong event".

L'Aquila's public prosecutor Alfredo Rossini said yesterday: "Those responsible are people who should have given different answers to the public. We're not talking about the lack of an alarm, the alarm came with the movements of the ground. We're talking about the lack of advice telling people to leave their homes."