• Kyodo

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Four residents of Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, died in the early 1950s from poison gas believed produced by the Japanese military before the end of World War II, according to a city document released Thursday.

The city is located about 23 km southeast of Kamisu, an Ibaraki Prefecture town where 20 residents currently suffer from illnesses suspected of being linked to poison gas abandoned by the Imperial Japanese Army after the war.

The Choshi municipal government came across the documents while re-examining records on past cases, which was done because the city is located close to Kamisu, city officials said.

The Environment Ministry knew nothing of the deaths because few documents remain from the time, a ministry official said. But the ministry plans to ask municipalities nationwide to follow Choshi’s example and review their records.

The document is from the city’s fisheries section and dated 1958. It says a 52-year-old man, his 79-year-old mother and a 1-year-old boy died several days after a liquid leaked from an object the man had broken open at his home.

The object was thought to be a gas shell, and the three died of poisoning, the document says.

The man found the object on the coast on April 1, 1951, according to the document.

Another man, 50, who helped the man break open the object, died of tuberculosis two years later. He suffered from throat irritation and gas poisoning, according to the document.

Meanwhile, the central government announced an aid package Wednesday for Kamisu residents suffering health problems after using water from wells contaminated with arsenic. The package will also help pay for treatment of illnesses believed to have been caused by poison gas.

The ministry had set up the support measure with unusual speed — before determining the cause of the illnesses — because military research and airport facilities were located in the area during the war.

The central government did not find out about the four deaths in a nationwide survey conducted in 1973.

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