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Town 'ignored warning' of imminent earthquake

Town 'ignored warning' of imminent earthquake - a seismologist who claimed he could have given up to 24 hours notice of the disaster said his repeated warnings had been ignored. Even as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi declared an emergency and promised a record number of rescue teams, a bitter row was raging over whether lives could have been saved by evacuating homes before the quake struck at 3.32am. A flurry of earth tremors struck the L'Aquila area in mid-January, prompting Giampaolo Giuliani, a researcher at the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, whose laboratories are deep beneath the Gran Sasso mountain on L'Aquila's skyline to sound the alarm. In interviews before the earthquake struck he claimed that he had developed an early warning system based not on seismic waves but on radon which is only expelled from the earth under intense pressure. After his warnings, vans with megaphones toured L'Aquila urging people to leave their homes. But the mayor allegedly served the seismologist with a warning of criminal charges for scare-mongering, even though the region had experienced nine tremors since the start of April. "Now there are people who have to apologise to me and who will have what has happened on their conscience," Mr Giuliani said. The expert said he was helpless to act as it became clear to him on Sunday that a quake was imminent. "I didn't know who to turn to, I had been put under investigation for saying there was going to be an earthquake."  

Image: Rescuers search the remains of a building which collapsed during yesterday's earthquake
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