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Japan’s top court awards damages to Fukushima victims

FILE PHOTO: A worker wearing a protective suit and a mask take photograph at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi

The Supreme Court of Japan affirmed a ruling ordering utility Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay 1.4 billion yen ($12 million) in damages to around 3,700 people whose lives were ruined by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, marking the first time such a decision has been made.

What’s going on: The average settlement of around 380,000 yen ($3,290) for each plaintiff covered three class-action lawsuits, among more than 30 filed against the utility, according to public broadcaster NHK.

  • The court rejected Tepco’s appeal and found it irresponsible in taking preventive measures against a tsunami of that size.
  • The court has yet to rule on the government’s role, which is also a defendant in the claims, and will hold a hearing next month to determine its liability, according to NHK.
  • The extent of the government’s responsibility in foreseeing the disaster and forcing Tepco to take actions to avert it has divided lower courts.

What happened: In March 2011, a large tsunami caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast damaged Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power facility, causing the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

  • Approximately 470,000 people were forced to flee in the first few days, and tens of thousands have yet to be reunited with their families.
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