Futenma noise compensation unchallenged

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) A high court ruling that ordered the state to pay compensation to residents near a U.S. military base in Okinawa over aircraft noise was partly finalized Thursday as the government did not file an appeal against the decision by the deadline the same day.

The ruling by the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha branch on July 29 ordering the government to pay a total of ¥369 million in compensation to around 390 plaintiffs living near U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma became final for most of the claimants.

Among the plaintiffs, 10 have appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, seeking a halt to early morning and evening flights at the base, which is in a densely populated area in Ginowan.

The high court recognized the health hazards caused by low-frequency sound waves from helicopters. According to lawyers for the plaintiffs, it is the first time a court has admitted the effects of low-frequency sound waves on human health in such noise suits.

The amount of compensation the court ordered the state to pay represents about a 2.5-fold increase from the amount awarded by the Naha District Court’s Okinawa branch in 2008.

But the high court upheld the lower court decision rejecting residents’ demand for a halt to early morning and evening flights at the base.

Crash anniversary

NAHA , Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima renewed his call for removing the risk posed by U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to local residents Friday, the sixth anniversary of the crash of a helicopter shortly after takeoff.

“There are several ways technically to remove the current risks of the Futenma base as early as possible,” Nakaima said at a regular news conference, suggesting transferring U.S. military drills at the base in the city of Ginowan to other parts of the country.

In the 2004 accident, a U.S. Marine helicopter crashed onto the campus of Okinawa International University, which is located near the base. Three crew members were injured.

Nakaima, recalling his talks in Okinawa in May with then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, said he asked the prime minister to remove the risks posed by the base.

Hatoyama told the governor at that time that he had noted Nakaima’s request. The governor expressed regret that his request was left untouched.

Calls for removal of the Futenma base, which is located in a densely populated area, mounted particularly after the CG-53D Marine helicopter crashed onto the university’s campus and burst into flames on Aug. 13, 2004.

Hatoyama at first vowed to relocate the base out of Okinawa but later gave up the plan. In late May, Japan and the United States agreed to relocate the base to a less populated coastal area in Nago, also in Okinawa. Hatoyama’s successor, Naoto Kan, has said his government would abide by the agreement.