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Threat of forced evacuation from Fukushima pushed 102yo to take his own life, judge rules

Threat of forced evacuation from Fukushima pushed 102yo to take his own life, judge rules
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Mieko Okubo, shown here in 2013, would regularly visit the home where her father-in-law took his life.
 
The family of a 102-year-old man who took his own life after being ordered to leave his home following the Fukushima disaster has won a bid for compensation.
Fumio Okubo told his family he had “lived a bit too long” and took his life one day after realising he would be forced out of his home.
His family filed a lawsuit seeking more than $700,000 in compensation, claiming Mr Okubo — the oldest resident of his village 40 kilometres from the tsunami-hit Daiichi power plant — took his life because of the evacuation order.
Judge Hideki Kanazawa said Mr Okubo had lived in the village his entire life and suffered unbearable pain over the evacuation order, as he felt he would likely die before he could return home.
The court acknowledged his suicide was linked to stress at the idea he would have to move and his fear that he would be a burden to his family.
Mieko Okubo, 59, said her father-in-law took his own life because he could not stand to end his life somewhere else.
“It took a long time to get here but I didn’t give up because I am the only one who can let people know how my father-in-law is feeling,” Ms Okubo said.
“I hope he will now rest in peace.”
The family’s lawyer Yukio Yasuda said it was a landmark ruling.
“The court acknowledged the causal relationship between the suicide and the nuclear disaster,” Mr Yasuda said.
Mr Okubo was one of 160,000 people ordered to leave their homes around the plant after the government announced an evacuation.
TEPCO, the reactor’s operator, has been ordered to pay $180,000 to the family and is yet to respond to the ruling.
The operator has been forced to pay damages over two other suicides involving former Fukushima residents who killed themselves after fleeing their homes.
 
Fukushima operator told to compensate for suicide of 102-year-old
20 Feb 2018,
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A Japanese court on Tuesday ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to compensate relatives of a 102-year-old man who killed himself at the prospect of fleeing his home.
The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Co (TEPCO) to pay 15.2 million yen ($143,400) in damages to the family of Fumio Okubo, according to their attorney Yukio Yasuda.
Okubo was the oldest resident of Iitate village, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant on Japan’s northeast coast, which sparked the world’s worst atomic accident in a generation in 2011.
He took his own life after the government ordered area residents to flee in April 2011, a month after tsunami waves sent the plant’s reactors into meltdown.
“I lived a bit too long,” he told his family soon after he learned of the government-ordered evacuation from a news report.
The court acknowledged his suicide was linked to “strong stress” at the prospect that he would have to flee and his fear that he would be a burden to his family, the attorney said.
“It is significant that the court recognised the eldest man in the village who would have lived out his final days in his homeland was hit by such a terrible tragedy,” he told AFP on the phone.
The compensation ordered by the court was smaller than the 60 million yen the bereaved family had demanded, but they do not plan to appeal, he added.
TEPCO said it would examine the latest ruling before it decides on its response
The firm has already been ordered to pay damages over two other suicides involving former Fukushima residents who killed themselves after fleeing their homes.
Iitate was one of a number of areas the central government declared off-limits due to concerns at the effect of long-term exposure to radiation.
The killer tsunami, triggered by a 9.0-magnitude offshore earthquake on March 11, 2011, swamped the emergency power supplies at the Fukushima power plant, sending its reactors into meltdown as cooling systems failed.
Many of the tens of thousands of people who evacuated their homes and farms are unlikely to return to their ancestral properties due to radiation dangers.
While the quake and tsunami killed nearly 18,000 people, no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the atomic catastrophe.
 
Compensation awarded over 102-year-old’s suicide amid Fukushima crisis
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Mieko Okubo, the daughter-in-law of Fumio Okubo, who hanged himself at age 102 after learning he had to evacuate from his home in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, speaks to reporters in front of the Fukushima District Court on Tuesday.
 
FUKUSHIMA – A court awarded Tuesday ¥15.2 million ($142,000) in damages to the family of a 102-year-old man who killed himself in the face of an order to flee from his home as the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis was unfolding.
The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to pay compensation, recognizing the relationship between the suicide of Fumio Okubo and the nuclear disaster.
Three of Okubo’s family members had sought a total of ¥60 million from the utility known as Tepco. The man, who had never lived outside of his hometown of Iitate, was found to have hanged himself in his room on April 12, 2011, a day after learning the government was set to issue an evacuation order for the village.
After a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the Fukushima nuclear complex on March 11, 2011, the plant suffered multiple meltdowns, becoming the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and prompting the government to instruct neighboring residents to evacuate.
The village of Iitate, located about 30 kilometers northwest of the plant, was designated as an evacuation zone on April 22, 2011. The order was lifted in most parts of the village in March last year as decontamination work has helped lower the level of radioactive contamination there.
Presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa said Okubo “suffered unbearable pain as he was highly likely to die without being able to return home” if he had been evacuated, referring to his advanced age.
In similar lawsuits in 2014 and 2015, Tepco was also ordered to pay compensation by the Fukushima court over suicides linked to the nuclear disaster.
According to the lawsuit in the latest case, Okubo learned of the impending evacuation order through a television news program on April 11, 2011, and told his daughter-in-law Mieko, 65, “I don’t want to evacuate.” He sat in front of the TV for two hours and also said, “I think I have lived a bit too long.”
The plaintiffs argued that Okubo had lived his whole life in Iitate and suffered mental anguish trying to imagine his life as an evacuee.
Tepco denied a causal relationship between Okubo’s suicide and the nuclear disaster and claimed that even if there was some kind of connection, his poor health condition might have affected his decision to take his own life.
Born into a farmer’s family in the village, Okubo became a farm worker soon after leaving elementary school. He kept cattle and horses, cultivated land, grew leaf tobacco and bred silkworms.
“For grandpa, the evacuation order was the same as being told to ‘die,’ ” Mieko Okubo said. After the ruling was handed down, she told reporters, “We won (the compensation) due to everyone’s support. I will go to grandpa’s grave to report” on the court decision.
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February 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Chiba court recognizes nuke disaster evacuees’ ‘loss of hometown’ for first time

chiba court victory 23 sept 2017.pngLawyers for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking damages from the government and TEPCO for residents who evacuated to Chiba Prefecture following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster hold up banners reading “Government not liable,” left, and “TEPCO must pay portion of compensation,” right, in front of the Chiba District Court on Sept. 22, 2017.

 

When on Sept. 22 the Chiba District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay some 376 million yen in damages to a group of Fukushima nuclear disaster evacuees, it gave concrete recognition to the evacuees’ loss — of hometowns, jobs and personal relationships — for the first time.

Six and a half years after the disaster, even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, the reconstruction of the communities that once thrived there is still a distant prospect. However, though it absolved the government of legal liability, this court ruling — the second in a slew of class action suits filed against TEPCO and the government — can be said to be a breakthrough far exceeding previous compensation levels.

“The Maebashi District Court (in March) recognized the responsibility of both the government and TEPCO, but this ended up feeling like a victory in name only, with no ‘reward.’ But it can be said that the Chiba (District Court) decision finally reaped ‘rewards,”’ commented lawyer Katsuyoshi Suzuki, lead counsel of the plaintiffs’ legal team in the Maebashi court case, who was at a gathering in Chiba awaiting the Sept. 22 ruling.

The Maebashi District Court awarded a total of some 460 million yen in damages. However, based on “interim guidelines” set for TEPCO by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation in August 2011 to ensure swift payouts, it was decided that TEPCO had already paid about 420 million yen. As such, a total of only 38.55 million yen was awarded to 62 of the 137 plaintiffs. Complaints followed that voices of the evacuees decrying their psychological pain had not been heard.

However, in the Chiba case, TEPCO was ordered to pay 42 out of the 45 plaintiffs a total of roughly 376 million yen, even after some 650 million yen was judged as already having been paid by the company under the “interim guidelines.” It was pointed out that the guidelines only set a minimum baseline for compensation, and upon considering the individual cases, the court granted the large damages award.

What stood out was that the court explicitly recognized the payout as compensation for the loss of hometowns, jobs and personal relationships suffered by the nuclear disaster evacuees. The majority of the plaintiffs in the Chiba case were residents of designated evacuation zones, and claimed they lost their livelihoods, relationships and local customs to the nuclear disaster, and were stripped of their right to live a peaceful life. They had sought 20 million yen in compensation each, saying that the interim guidelines did not accurately reflect the pain of losing their hometowns.

Concerning communities where the evacuation orders had been lifted by this spring, including the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, TEPCO cited falling radiation levels and infrastructure restoration as evidence that the plaintiffs’ claim that they lost their hometowns permanently was false. As such, TEPCO argued that their current compensation standards were sufficient.

However, even in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, only roughly 10 percent of former residents have returned. The court decision stated, “(The plaintiffs) have lost their close connections to their local communities over a substantial period of time. Simply lifting evacuation orders will not immediately relieve this suffering,” awarding 36 of the plaintiffs an average of some 3 million yen each. Nevertheless, some of the plaintiffs are not satisfied by the results.

“Our lives were disrupted,” said Michiko Saito, 56, who evacuated from the Odaka district of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, to Yachimata, Chiba Prefecture. “Even if the money is returned to us, we will never get our hometowns back.”

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170923/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

September 24, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment