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Tsunami victims' families in appeal to Miyagi Pref. assembly over 1.4 bil yen ruling

SENDAI -- Families of 23 primary school students killed in the March 11, 2011 tsunami have asked the Miyagi Prefectural Assembly to urge the prefectural government not to appeal an Oct. 26 Sendai District Court ruling ordering the prefecture and the Ishinomaki Municipal Government to pay 1.4 billion yen in compensation over the deaths.

The 23 children were among 84 students and staff at Ishinomaki's Okawa Elementary School who died or went missing in the disaster.

Six plaintiffs met with the Miyagi Prefectural Assembly members on Nov. 4 after listening to a plenary assembly session where Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai explained why he used his authority to decide to appeal the district court ruling without putting the issue to an assembly vote.

Murai told the assembly that the Sendai District Court's claim that the school staff could have predicted a tsunami just from announcements by an Ishinomaki loudspeaker vehicle is not consistent with past rulings on tsunami deaths. He added, "It was a difficult decision (to appeal). The weight of the lives lost is not any different whether they were students or local residents or school staff. I cannot accept a ruling that condemns the staff who tried to save the students."

Kazutaka Sato, 49, one plaintiff who lost his sixth-grade son to the tsunami, said after meeting with some 30 assembly members, "I want to ask if it is a burden on teachers to protect the lives of children while under school supervision, whose job is it to protect them in compulsory education?"

Hiroyuki Konno, 54, who lost his sixth-grade son and has led the plaintiff group, emphasized that the group is not holding each teacher responsible for the children's deaths.

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