National / Crime & Legal

Suicide prompts wife to sue Tepco

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

The last words that a Fukushima dairy farmer said to his wife in the Philippines over the phone on the morning of June 10, 2011, was to make sure that she and their children ate well, stayed healthy and didn’t return to Japan.

Later that day, he hanged himself at his farm in Soma. His Filipino wife, Vanessa Abordo Kanno, and their two sons had fled to the Philippines after the nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. Shigekiyo Kanno had remained to look after the farm.

More than a year and a half after her husband’s suicide, Kanno, 34, is ready to stand up against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and is preparing to sue it for ¥110 million in damages over his death.

During a news conference Wednesday in Tokyo, Kanno broke down in tears as she explained that she harbored no anger toward Tepco because she feels the nuclear crisis was an “accident,” adding she just wants the utility to financially assist her children.

“The future of my kids has been lost because of that nuclear power plant . . . I am not doing this for myself. All of my energy, I will give for the sake of my two kids,” Kanno said.

Kanno and her husband had lived on his farm in Soma, where they owned about 40 cows. But 10 days after three of the No. 1 plant’s reactors suffered core meltdowns after the March 11, 2011 disasters, the government ordered a monthlong suspension of milk shipments amid domestic and international alarms about radioactive contamination.

At the recommendation of the Philippine government, Kanno evacuated to her home country with her two sons for a spell from that April, as high levels of radiation had been detected around their district in Fukushima.

Shigekiyo Kanno visited them for about a week at the end of April and hinted he was going to give up dairy farming and look for a new job.

But money was a source of worry because he had just borrowed ¥5 million to build a new compost shed.

Instead of finding a new occupation, he ended up taking his own life, hanging himself in the newly built shed. On the wall, he wrote a final message to his family in chalk, apologizing and repeatedly lamenting the existence of nuclear power: “If only there were no nuclear reactors . . . I have lost the will to work . . . I am sorry for being a father who was unable to do anything for you.”

According to Kanno’s lawyer, Yukuo Yasuda, she and her children were not deemed eligible to receive compensation from Tepco because they did not live in the government-designated evacuation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 plant. But Yasuda explained that the suicide had clearly resulted from the nuclear catastrophe, and that Tepco should therefore be held responsible.

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