A Japanese court has ordered the operators of the Fukushima nuclear plant to pay 15.2 million yen (US$143,400) in compensation to the family of 102-year-old Fumio Okubo, who killed himself rather than leave his home village.
On Tuesday, the Fukushima District Court ruled that the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) had to pay damages to Okubo’s family, ruling that the nuclear disaster of 2011 was in large part responsible for his death.
“It is significant that the court recognized the eldest man in the village who would have lived out his final days in his homeland was hit by such a terrible tragedy,” lawyer Yukio Yasuda said.
Okubo, who used to work as a farmer, had lived his whole life in the village of Iitate, some 40km (25 miles) from the disaster site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the northeast of Japan. On March 11, 2011 the power plant was hit by a tsunami, sending its reactors into a meltdown.
A month later, after watching a TV report that the government would be evacuating his village, Okubo reportedly told his family “I lived a bit too long”. The next day he was found dead in his room after having hanged himself.
In July 2015, his daughter-in-law Mieko Okubo and two others filed a lawsuit, arguing that the evacuation was too much for the centenarian to bear. On Tuesday, presiding judge Hideki Kanazawa said Okubo "suffered unbearable pain as he was highly likely to die without being able to return home," adding that the elderly man feared he would be a burden to his family.
In the seven years since the tsunami and nuclear disaster, Fukushima Prefecture has seen a large number of suicides. By 2017, ninety-nine people chose to end their own lives, nearly double that of nearby Miyagi Prefecture. TEPCO has already been ordered to pay compensation to the families of two other suicide victims.