Fukushima residents win $4.5m payout over 2011 nuclear disaster
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Fukushima residents win $4.5m payout over 2011 nuclear disaster

A COURT in Japan has ordered the government and the operator of destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to pay JPY500 million (US$4.45 million) in damages to residents of the area affected by the March 2011 triple meltdown.

A group of about 3,800 people, mostly in Fukushima prefecture, filed the class action suit, marking the biggest number of plaintiffs out of about 30 similar class action lawsuits filed across the nation.

According to the Guardian, the plaintiffs, who included Fukushima residents who were not told to evacuate, will each receive up to JPY360,000 (US$3,200), according to the verdict. The court rejected a demand for monthly compensation of JPY55,000 (US$490) until radiation at the plaintiffs’ homes has fallen to pre-disaster levels.

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The ruling by the Fukushima district court is the second of its kind to find the government jointly accountable for the disaster, in which large quantities of radiation was released. Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes after a powerful earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant. The court said officials should have been prepared for a potentially ruinous tsunami.

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Plaintiffs that sued TEPCO and the Japanese government show off placards in front of the Fukushima district court in Fukushima, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo, on Oct 10, 2017. Source: Kyodo/via Reuters

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which ran the plant at the time of the disaster, has been ordered to pay damages in all three court rulings to date.

The plaintiffs also called on the government and Tepco to reinstate the levels of radioactivity at their homes before the disaster, but the court rejected the request, Kyodo news agency said.

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Tepco has long been criticised for ignoring the threat posed by natural disasters to the Fukushima plant and the company and the government were lambasted for their handling of the crisis.

Almost seven years after the disaster, more than 50,000 evacuees are still living in limbo. Many say they will never be able to return home, although some have moved back to communities where the government has lifted evacuation orders.

Additional reporting by Reuters