ROME, Italy (CBS) -- A verdict has been reached in the trial of a group of scientists in Italy who were accused of failing to warn residents about a deadly earthquake three years ago.
An Italian court convicted a group of scientists of manslaughter for failing to warn residents about the 2009 earthquake in the historic city of L'Aquila.
The powerful quake killed 309 people, injured more than 1,500 and left 65,000 people homeless. The seven scientists who worked on the nation's "Great Risks Commission" were sentenced to six years behind bars after the court found them guilty of downplaying the risks of a major quake and not warning residents to evacuate.
L'Aquila sits is on a major fault line that has frequent tremors. A cluster hit before the massive 6.3 magnitude quake rocked the city.
Seismologists around the world are alarmed at the charges and argue it is impossible to predict when an earthquake will strike. Dr. Tom Jordan, director of the So. Cal. Earthquake Center says, "Here you have a number of scientists who are simply doing their job being prosecuted for criminal manslaughter and I think that scares all of us who are involved in risk communication."
The city is now mostly abandoned, and many buildings will have to be demolished. Residents who sued the scientists say their ultimate goal was to get better information about future earthquakes.
The convicted scientists do not have to go to jail immediately. They have time to appeal.
The convicted scientists held an emergency meeting in L'Aquila just six days before that deadly earthquake struck.