30 Avril 2016
April 28, 2016
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
April 28, 2016 at 15:55 JST
A court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay 31 million yen ($279,279) in damages to be split among the families of two elderly men who died after being evacuated from a hospital following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The plaintiffs had demanded a total of 66.4 million yen in compensation, but Presiding Judge Tetsuro Nakayoshi at the Tokyo District Court agreed with TEPCO in an April 27 ruling that factors other than the nuclear accident also contributed to the untimely deaths.
Tadashi Abe, 98, and Yoshio Henmi, 73, were hospitalized at Futaba Hospital in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, which is 4.6 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant where disaster struck following a blackout triggered by the powerful quake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
Abe was rescued from the hospital March 14 by Self-Defense Forces members, but he died two days later at a makeshift evacuation center in the prefecture.
Henmi was evacuated from the hospital March 16 to be moved to another hospital. He died that day.
“(The two) died from the burden of being forced to travel for a long distance and for an extended period of time after the nuclear accident,” said a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
Abe had to travel about 230 kilometers in eight hours while Henmi was ferried about 80 kilometers, according to court documents.
But the court ruled less damages should be awarded as the deaths were partly caused by hypothermia that was contracted due to the lack of heating after the power outage caused by the quake and tsunami.
About 50 people who were left behind at the hospital and affiliated nursing facility had died by the end of April because their evacuation was delayed.
The court's ruling was the first in connection with lawsuits filed against TEPCO by relatives of seven people who died or went missing in the aftermath of the disaster.
A 73-year-old sister-in-law of Henmi voiced relief after the court decision.
“I finally got something that was bothering me off my chest,” she said. “I regret letting him die such a lonely death.”
Fumio Shinkai, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, however, expressed frustration over the ruling.
“It is regrettable that the ruling did not take into account peculiarities of a nuclear accident,” he said at a news conference.
The lawyers argued that the court should give consideration to damages stemming from a nuclear power plant, which was believed to be safe prior to the accident, and the sufferings they went through while evacuating.
Shinkai noted that the ruling did not refer to those points they had argued in court and that the amount of damages the district court ordered is similar to that of a fatal traffic accident.
TEPCO said in a statement: “We offer heart-felt prayers to those who died after they were forced to evacuate in the wake of the nuclear accident. After studying the court decision, we will continue to respond sincerely.”
When the nuclear accident unfolded, there were 338 patients at the hospital. On March 12, when a hydrogen explosion occurred at the nuclear facility, 209 patients who were able to walk on their own were transported by bus to evacuation centers and other facilities.
(This article was compiled from reports by Odaka Chiba and Mana Nagano.)