SENDAI – A kindergarten in a tsunami-hit city in the northeast has agreed to pay ¥60 million in damages and offer an apology after four children died when its bus was swamped by tsunami in March 2011, the families of the victims said.
A settlement was reached at the Sendai High Court between privately run Hiyori kindergarten in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, and the families of the four children.
The kindergarten acknowledged its legal responsibility and admitted it did not take sufficient measures in response to the tsunami, the families said Wednesday.
Plaintiffs said the amount to be paid by the educational facility was decided based on the facility’s capacity to pay, although it falls short of the amount ordered by a lower court.
In September 2013, the Sendai District Court ordered the kindergarten to pay ¥177 million in damages over the children’s deaths, the first ruling in a damages suit filed by relatives of tsunami victims against operators of facilities in areas hit by the 2011 quake and tsunami.
Recognizing the failure of the kindergarten principal and other staff to gather information on the disaster and protect the children, presiding Judge Norio Saiki said at the time it was possible to forecast the arrival of a tsunami after experiencing the massive quake.
Five children and a female employee died on March 11, 2011, when the shuttle bus they were in was engulfed by a tidal wave as the vehicle drove toward a lowland coastal area from the kindergarten, which is on a hill 23 meters above sea level.
The plaintiffs had sought ¥267 million in damages, arguing the kindergarten could have predicted there was a risk of tsunami as the facility had been rocked by the violent quake. But the kindergarten said it was impossible to foresee a tsunami of that scale and appealed the court’s decision.
The bus left the kindergarten about 10 minutes after the quake, following the principal’s instructions to send the children home.