Tepco must compensate family of suicide case

TOKYO • A Japanese court yesterday 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 Power Co (Tepco) to pay 15.2 million yen (S$202,400) in damages to the family of Mr Fumio Okubo, said their lawyer Yukio Yasuda.

Mr Okubo was the oldest resident of Iitate village, 40km from the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi plant on Japan's north-eastern coast. He took his life after the government ordered 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 learnt of the government-ordered evacuation from a news report.

The court acknowledged that 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.

"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," said the family's lawyer, Mr Yasuda.

The compensation was less than the 60 million yen the bereaved family had demanded, but they do not plan to appeal, he added.

Iitate was one of a number of areas that the central government declared off-limits due to concerns about the effect of long-term exposure to radiation. The 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 be able to return to their ancestral properties because of radiation dangers.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2018, with the headline 'Tepco must compensate family of suicide case'. Print Edition | Subscribe