Japan, Fukushima operator told to pay over 2011 nuclear disaster

Yokohama court orders government and TEPCO to pay $3.8m to 152 residents forced to flee homes after nuclear meltdown.

    Around 12,000 people who fled after the disaster due to radiation fears have filed various lawsuits against the government and TEPCO [File: Toru Hanai/Reuters]
    Around 12,000 people who fled after the disaster due to radiation fears have filed various lawsuits against the government and TEPCO [File: Toru Hanai/Reuters]

    A court in Japan has awarded nearly $4m in new damages to 152 residents forced to flee their houses after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown eight years ago, the world's most serious nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

    The Yokohama district court on Wednesday ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to pay 419.6m yen ($3.8m) to the residents, a court spokeswoman told AFP news agency.

    Triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake, a tsunami crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in March 2011, overwhelming reactor cooling systems, causing multiple meltdowns and sending radiation over a large area that forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate. 

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    Nearly 19,000 people were killed or went missing and 160,000 lost their homes and livelihoods in the massive earthquake and tsunami.

    Presiding judge Ken Nakadaira said the government and TEPCO "could have avoided the accident if they had taken measures" against the tsunami, according to public broadcaster NHK.

    The verdict was the fifth time the government has been ruled liable for the disaster in eastern Japan.

    In March last year, a court in Kyoto, western Japan, ruled that both the government and TEPCO were responsible and ordered them to pay 110m yen ($992,300) to 110 residents.

    However, in a separate case in September 2017 in Chiba near Tokyo, the court ruled that only the operator was liable.

    Around 12,000 people who fled after the disaster due to radiation fears have filed various lawsuits against the government and TEPCO.

    Cases have revolved around whether the government and TEPCO, both of whom are responsible for disaster prevention measures, could have foreseen the scale of the tsunami and subsequent meltdown.

    Dozens of class-action lawsuits have been filed seeking compensation from the government.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies