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Fukushima operator ordered to compensate for suicide


Mikio Watanabe holds a portrait of his late wife Hamako at his home at Yamakiya district in Kawamata town, Fukushima prefecture in this June 23, 2014 file photo. A Fukushima district court has ruled that Tokyo Electric was responsible for Hamako's suicide following the March 2011 nuclear disaster and must pay 49 million yen ($472,000) in compensation, Kyodo news reported. Photo - Reuters

Tokyo: The family of a Japanese woman who fatally set herself on fire after being forced to flee the nuclear disaster at Fukushima was awarded nearly half a million dollars in damages Tuesday, reports said.

It was the first time that the operator of the stricken plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), has been ordered to pay compensation for a suicide linked to the 2011 nuclear disaster.

A 9.0 undersea quake triggered a massive tsunami that swamped cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan's northeast, sparking the worst atomic accident in a generation.

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated around the plant amid fears of rising radiation.

Among them was Hamako Watanabe, 58, who doused herself in petrol and set fire when she was allowed to temporarily return to her home in June 2011, reports said.

Her husband and three children sued TEPCO for damages, arguing the forced evacuation was responsible for the symptoms of depression she displayed.

On Tuesday the Fukushima District Court ordered TEPCO to pay a total of 49 million yen ($472,000) to her family, Jiji Press and public broadcaster NHK said.

The family had demanded 91 million yen.

In a statement, TEPCO apologised again to the people of Fukushima for the disaster, and said it would "examine the ruling and continue to cope with the issue sincerely."

A company spokesman said no decision had yet been made on whether to appeal the ruling.


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