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Judges clad in protective gear visit Fukushima in class action suit

Judge Hideki Kanazawa, third from right in the front row, walks through an area evacuated due to radiation while wearing protective clothing, near the homes of plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the nuclear disaster, in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 17, 2016. (Pool photo)

FUKUSHIMA -- Judges from the Fukushima District Court donned protective gear to make an on-site visit on March 17 to towns evacuated due to high radiation levels, as they deliberate a class action lawsuit over the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    Some 3,900 people who lived in Fukushima Prefecture and adjacent prefectures at the time of the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have sued the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. for compensation and a restoration of their hometowns to their pre-disaster state. According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, the March 17 visit is the first time that a court handling a lawsuit over the Fukushima disaster has made an on-site visit.

    The visit consisted of around 50 people, including three judges and lawyers for both the plaintiffs and the defendants. They went to three evacuated towns, Futaba, Namie and Tomioka, where they looked inside the homes of plaintiffs, thrown into disorder by scavenging animals and full of strewn furniture and bad odors. They also walked by JR Futaba Station, now unmanned and silent.

    Plaintiff Yuji Fukuda, 67, who evacuated from Futaba and is now living in the city of Iwaki, said after the visit, "The judges understood that we are continuing to suffer from being driven from our towns and having to leave our homes and properties unattended."

    At his cow barn, Sadatoshi Sato, 68, livestock farmer and plaintiff from Namie, explained to the judges how most of the around 150 cattle he kept had died from starvation after the town was evacuated.

    The plaintiffs in the case are seeking 20 million yen in compensation each for 40 people who lived in areas that are under evacuation order. They are also seeking a reduction in radiation doses to pre-disaster levels, and payment of 50,000 yen per month to each plaintiff for the duration until this happens.

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