Govt. ordered to compensate Fukushima evacuees

The Tokyo High Court has ordered the Japanese government to compensate people who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture following the 2011 nuclear power plant accident there.

The decision reverses the Chiba District Court's ruling that ordered only the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, to pay damages to the plaintiffs.

In Friday's ruling, the high court found both parties liable and ordered them to pay 278 million yen, or about 2.6 million dollars.

The suit was filed by more than 40 people who fled to Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Three of its reactors suffered meltdowns after a powerful earthquake and tsunami struck.

The district court had ruled that the accident was unavoidable, even if the plant had adopted measures to protect itself from a tsunami.

The high court determined that the government could have foreseen the risk of a massive tsunami, if it had studied a long-term assessment of seismic activities released by a panel of experts in 2002.

Presiding judge Shirai Yukio said if the plant had been equipped with tidal barriers, or had other anti-tsunami measures in place, it would not have suffered a power blackout.

Judge Shirai also said the plaintiffs should be compensated for enduring major changes in their livelihoods.

He mentioned the trauma experienced by those forced to decide whether to give up on returning to Fukushima or to aim for a return, while living provisionally elsewhere.

Friday's ruling was the third made by a high court in response to lawsuits filed by groups of evacuees, and the second one that found the central government liable.