Japan councils appeal tsunami death compensation rulings

Tokyo: Two local governments have appealed to Japan’s top court, challenging rulings that awarded millions of dollars in compensation to families whose children were swept out to sea in a 2011 tsunami. In late April, the Sendai High Court upheld a district court judgement ordering the two local governments to pay a combined 1.43 billion yen (USD 13.7 million) to families of 23 children who were killed in the disaster.

The victims, from the public Okawa Elementary School in the city of Ishinomaki, were among a total of 74 children who perished in rising waters after being told to wait for more than 40 minutes in school grounds with teachers, 10 of whom also died. Yesterday, the local governments appealed against the latest compensation ruling before the Supreme Court, an official with Ishinomaki city’s education board told AFP.

“It’s nearly impossible for the principal and other teachers, who are not anti-disaster experts, to predict a tsunami,” Masato Chiba said. The plaintiffs argue that their children would have survived if they had been evacuated in time. Hiroyuki Konno, who lost a 12-year-old son and represents the plaintiffs, voiced disappointment at the appeal, telling public broadcaster NHK: “I want the Supreme Court to make a judgement that can protect the lives of children in the future.”

A massive undersea quake on March 11, 2011, sent a giant tsunami barrelling into Japan’s northeastern coast, leaving about 18,500 people dead or missing, and sending three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It was Japan’s worst postwar disaster and the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

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