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TEPCO forced to pay damages for old man's suicide

February 21, 2018


TEPCO ordered to pay damages over centenarian's suicide after nuclear disaster



FUKUSHIMA -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) must pay compensation over the suicide of a centenarian who took his own life shortly before he was to be forcibly evacuated from his hometown due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, a local court has ruled.

The Fukushima District Court ordered the power company on Feb. 20 to pay 15.2 million yen in damages to the bereaved family of Fumio Okubo from the Fukushima Prefecture village of Iitate, who died at the age of 102.


In the ruling, the court recognized the causal relationship between the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and Okubo's suicide.


"An unbearable mental burden caused by the nuclear accident had a huge impact on the victim's decision to take his own life," Presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa said as he handed down the ruling.


TEPCO's public relations division commented that the company "will sincerely respond to the case after closely examining the ruling."


According to the legal team for the plaintiffs, this is the third court case in which TEPCO has been held responsible over the suicide of an evacuee from a region affected by the nuclear crisis.


According to the ruling, Okubo was born and raised in Iitate. In his post-retirement life, he had enjoyed strolling in his neighborhood and chatting with friends while drinking tea, until the area was hit by the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami.


Okubo hanged himself at his home on the morning of April 12, the day after he learned from a TV news program that Iitate, which is located some 30 to 50 kilometers northwest of the power station, was designated as an evacuation zone.


In the trial, the plaintiffs demanded 60.5 million yen in compensation, claiming that the evacuation forced Okubo to take his own life. "He had all his friends and assets as well as motivation in life in the village, and the only cause of his suicide we can think of is the forced evacuation due to the nuclear accident," a representative of the bereaved family said in the trial.


TEPCO argued that the causal relationship between the disaster and Okubo's suicide remained unclear.


Presiding Judge Kanazawa recognized that Okubo's mental anguish caused by his loss of village life, which he had continued for more than 100 years, and a lack of prospect for returning home ultimately triggered his suicide.


At the same time, the presiding judge deemed that Okubo's will to avoid burdening his family after evacuation also contributed to his decision to take his own life, and determined that the ratio of TEPCO's responsibility for the centenarian's suicide was 60 percent.


Mieko Okubo, 65, the wife of Okubo's second son, expressed appreciation for the ruling.

"I finally can say to my father-in-law, 'Please rest in peace,'" she said.


Okubo worked until he was nearly 80 and never lived outside Iitate. He sang his favorite song "Sumo Jinku," which is performed during sumo wrestlers' regional tours, in front of nearly 100 villagers who gathered at a party to celebrate his 99th birthday. He was also looking forward to visits by his grandchildren.


Mieko, who married Okubo's second son more than 40 years ago, was Okubo's main conversation partner during the day because her husband was often away from home for work.


Whenever she jokingly told him, "I feel as if I married you," he often laughed.


However, the nuclear disaster deprived the Okubo family of the peaceful life they had enjoyed. When Okubo saw a TV program reporting that an evacuation order would be shortly issued to the village, Okubo said, "I don't want to leave this village. I've lived too long."


He did not eat dinner that night, even though his favorite boiled dish was served. The following morning, Mieko went to Okubo's room to notify him that breakfast was ready, only to find that he had hanged himself.


"The village was everything for him. Ordering him to leave Iitate was tantamount to telling him to die," Mieko said.


Mieko and other members of Okubo's family launched the damages suit in July 2015 in a bid to have TEPCO admit to its responsibility for his suicide. While some people criticized the family over their legal action, the family received nearly 100 letters of encouragement from all over Japan.


The family members, who are now taking shelter at an apartment in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, intend to return to their home in Iitate by the end of this year.


Mieko and her family hope that TEPCO will acknowledge its responsibility for Okubo's suicide and apologize. "I'd like TEPCO officials to offer an incense stick" for the soul of Okubo, Mieko said.



February 20, 2018


TEPCO ordered to pay damages for 102-year-old man's suicide




FUKUSHIMA--A court here acknowledged that a 102-year-old man took his life rather than endure forced evacuation due to the 2011 nuclear disaster and ordered plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay 15.2 million ($142,300) in damages to his family.


The Fukushima District Court said in its Feb. 20 ruling that the planned mandatory evacuation of Iitate was behind Fumio Okubo’s suicide, adding that the prospect of being forced from his home must have triggered "unbearable psychological strain."


According to the plaintiffs' legal team, the ruling was the third by a court recognizing a link between the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and the suicide of an individual affected by the disaster.


Okubo, a resident of Iitate, killed himself after watching TV news on the evening of April 11, 2011, a month after the accident unfolded. The program reported that the government would designate Iitate as a zone that should prepare to evacuate.


He was found dead in his room the following morning.


In the lawsuit, filed in July 2015, Mieko Okubo, his daughter-in-law, and two other plaintiffs contended that Okubo had no other reason to take his life except that the planned evacuation weighed heavily on him.


TEPCO maintained in court that Okubo suffered from health problems prior to the nuclear disaster and that the correlation between his death and the disaster was slim, even if it did indeed exist.


The plaintiffs had sought 60.5 million yen in compensation.




TEPCO ordered to pay $142,000 in damages







A Japanese court has ordered Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay about 142,000 dollars in damages to the family of an elderly man who killed himself amid an evacuation order during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

After an earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi plant experienced nuclear meltdowns. The village of Iitate, where the man lived, was subsequently designated an evacuation zone.

One day after learning that he would have to leave his lifelong home, 102-year-old Fumio Okubo committed suicide.

Members of his family filed a lawsuit demanding that the utility pay a total of 568,000 dollars in damages.

They said Okubo killed himself in the face of an order to evacuate amid the nuclear crisis.

At issue in court was a causal relationship between the suicide and the nuclear disaster.

In the ruling on Tuesday, presiding judge Hideki Kanazawa at the Fukushima District Court said 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.

After the ruling was handed down, Mieko Okubo, the wife of Fumio Okubo's son, said she feels her father-in-law's wishes have been heard. She said she hope he will now rest in peace, adding that TEPCO should offer sticks of incense for him.


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