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Judges clad in protective gear inspect evacuated areas in Fukushima for on-site evidence in class action suit


Judge Hideki Kanazawa, third from right in the front row, walks through an area evacuated due to radiation while wearing protective clothing, near the homes of plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the nuclear disaster, in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 17, 2016.

FUKUSHIMA–Fukushima District Court judges inspected the houses of three evacuated plaintiffs on March 17 in connection with a lawsuit filed against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the nuclear disaster.

It marked the first visit by judges to evacuation zones regarding litigation concerning the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which was caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Called “Nariwai Sosho” (livelihood suit), the lawsuit has about 4,000 plaintiffs seeking consolation money and the restoration of their former lives that were lost because of the nuclear accident.

What was gleaned from the on-site inspections will be used as evidence in the trial.

The plaintiffs had called for the judges to visit the affected sites and hear their explanations to assess the scope of damage of the nuclear disaster.

The inspections involving about 50 people, which were closed to the media, started at 10:45 a.m. and ended around 4:30 p.m.

Three judges, including Presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa, first visited the home of Sadatoshi Sato, a 68-year-old who raised livestock before the disaster, in Namie.

Other plaintiffs, government officials and TEPCO representatives accompanied the judges. All participants wore white protective suits and masks.

At Sato’s home, the judges viewed empty cattle sheds. Sato had been raising about 150 cattle when the nuclear accident unfolded, but most of them starved to death while he was evacuating. Sato also took the judges to the site where the dead cattle were buried.

“I want the judges to give a thoughtful ruling so that the dead cattle would rest in peace,” Sato told reporters after the inspection.

The judges also visited the homes of 67-year-old Yuji Fukuda in Futaba and a woman in Tomioka who had been operating a piano school out of her house before the nuclear accident.

Fukuda’s house is in a difficult-to-return zone about 4 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. He showed the judges his once-thriving garden. He also told them about a local store that is now desolate.

“I told the judges from the bottom of my heart that I am not the only one who has suffered,” Fukuda said. “I had wanted the judges to come sooner. But my hope has finally come true.”

Judges clad in protective gear visit Fukushima in class action suit

FUKUSHIMA — Judges from the Fukushima District Court donned protective gear to make an on-site visit on March 17 to towns evacuated due to high radiation levels, as they deliberate a class action lawsuit over the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Some 3,900 people who lived in Fukushima Prefecture and adjacent prefectures at the time of the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have sued the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. for compensation and a restoration of their hometowns to their pre-disaster state. According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, the March 17 visit is the first time that a court handling a lawsuit over the Fukushima disaster has made an on-site visit.

The visit consisted of around 50 people, including three judges and lawyers for both the plaintiffs and the defendants. They went to three evacuated towns, Futaba, Namie and Tomioka, where they looked inside the homes of plaintiffs, thrown into disorder by scavenging animals and full of strewn furniture and bad odors. They also walked by JR Futaba Station, now unmanned and silent.

Plaintiff Yuji Fukuda, 67, who evacuated from Futaba and is now living in the city of Iwaki, said after the visit, “The judges understood that we are continuing to suffer from being driven from our towns and having to leave our homes and properties unattended.”

At his cow barn, Sadatoshi Sato, 68, livestock farmer and plaintiff from Namie, explained to the judges how most of the around 150 cattle he kept had died from starvation after the town was evacuated.

The plaintiffs in the case are seeking 20 million yen in compensation each for 40 people who lived in areas that are under evacuation order. They are also seeking a reduction in radiation doses to pre-disaster levels, and payment of 50,000 yen per month to each plaintiff for the duration until this happens.


March 18, 2016 - Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , ,

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