Survivors of Tsunami-Victim School Children Won 1.4 Billion Yen Verdict
The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake five years ago left devastating scars in the northern parts of Japan, of which the most painful was the loss of 74 pupils of the Okawa Elementary School in Miyagi Prefecture. The 23 families who had lost their loved ones filed a suit at the Sendai District Court and a verdict was delivered on October 26.
The court ruled in their favor, asking the Miyagi Prefectural and Ishinomaki city authorities to pay 1.426 billion yen on account of negligence on their part. The court eventually halved the amount.
One of the pivotal points argued in the suit centered on whether or not the school could have anticipated a tsunami to reach the school district 4 kilometers away from the seacoast. Judge Kenji Takamiya of the Sendai District Court ruled that the school teachers must have heard the announcement of a PR vehicle calling for evacuation at about 15:30, at least 7 minutes prior to the tsunami attack.
The school authorities argued that school building had a steep hill behind highly vulnerable to the onslaught of an approaching tsunami and the staff in charge of guiding the children had actually adopted the best available measure to escort them to an intersection along the river.
The Sendai District Court ruled that the school authorities had actually "heard" the public announcement made at the time of evacuation to move away from the tsunami, that the intersection in question was only 7 meters above the sea-level unfit for evacuation and that the hill behind the school building had often been used for field studies and only 1 minute or so on foot.
According to NHK, Mr. Yoshihiro Sato, sub-head of the plaintiff group, commented:
"We are relieved to know that the court had heard our case. The lost children were all here today to hear the results; my boy probably feels happy that I have done my best." (Nathan Shiga)