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This article is concerned with attempting to ‘predict’ (hindcast) the damage caused by the L’Aquila 2009 earthquake (Mw 6.3) and, more generally, with the question of how close predicted damage can ever be to observations. Damage is hindcast using a well-established empirical-based approach based on vulnerability indices and macroseismic intensities, adjusted for local site effects. Using information that was available before the earthquake and assuming the same event characteristics as the L’Aquila mainshock, the overall damage is reasonably well predicted but there are considerable differences in the damage pattern. To understand the reasons for these differences, information that was only available after the event were include within the calculation. Despite some improvement in the predicted damage, in particularly by the modification of the vulnerability indices and the parameter influencing the width of the damage distribution, these hindcasts do not match all the details of the observations. This is because of local effects: both in terms of the ground shaking, which is only detectable by the installation of a much denser strong-motion network and a detailed microzonation, and in terms of the building vulnerability, which cannot be modeled using a statistical approach but would require detailed analytical modeling for which calibration data are likely to be lacking. Future studies should concentrate on adjusting the generic components of the approach to make them more applicable to their location of interest. To increase the number of observations available to make these adjustments, we encourage the collection of damage states (and not just habitability classes) following earthquakes and also the installation of dense strong-motion networks in built-up areas.
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