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Family of woman killed in tsunami settles with Kamaishi city, which vows to apologize

Nakako (left) and Taiki Terasawa, parents of the late Rikako Katagiri, speak after a settlement was reached over their daughter's death at the Sendai High Court on July 3, 2018, in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. (Mainichi)
Rikako Katagiri

SENDAI -- A settlement was reached in a lawsuit in which the bereaved parents of a kindergarten teacher who fled to a local disaster evacuation center in the Iwate Prefecture city of Kamaishi only to become a casualty of tsunami caused by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake sought compensation from the Kamaishi Municipal Government for not publicizing accurate information.

The Kamaishi Municipal Government acknowledged its administrative responsibility for the death of Rikako Katagiri, and will pay the bereaved family 489,500 yen in compensation. Their eyes red from crying, the woman's parents said they were glad that their daughter's death had not gone to waste, following the settlement, which was reached at an appellate trial at the Sendai High Court on July 3.

The then 31-year-old Katagiri, a temporary kindergarten teacher, had evacuated to the Unosumai district disaster prevention center in Kamaishi after the earthquake. According to attorneys for both sides, the settlement requires the Kamaishi Municipal Government to recognize its administrative responsibility and apologize to victims, and make an expression of gratitude to Katagiri and other kindergarten staff who risked their own lives to save the lives of two kindergarteners, among other acts.

In a statement that was released, Kamaishi Mayor Takenori Noda said, "I would like to take to heart the convictions of those who passed once again, and reinforce efforts to create an even safer, more comfortable city."

Katagiri was 9 months pregnant at the time, and was killed on her last day at work before she was to go on maternity leave. Her father, Taiki Terasawa, 68, and her mother, Nakako Terasawa, 67, visit their daughter's grave on the monthly anniversary of her death, and also visited the former site of the evacuation center where Katagiri perished.

The settlement was reached on July 3, Nakako's birthday. "I wonder if the settlement is a present from my daughter. I went to my daughter's grave and spoke to her, wondering how much my grandchild would've have grown by now if they had survived," she said, holding back tears.

"In the settlement, the Kamaishi Municipal Government has promised to beef up its disaster prevention scheme," Taiki said, his voice quivering. "This will lead to the building of a safe city in which a tragedy like this will never happen again."

(Japanese original by Takashi Kokaji and Tomoko Fujii, Morioka Bureau)

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