National / Crime & Legal

Miyagi town settles over toddler's tsunami death

Kyodo

The parents of a toddler killed in the 2011 tsunami while in the care of a municipal nursery reached a settlement with authorities on Wednesday in a damages suit heard at the Sendai High Court.

Ryo Shibuya, 31, and his wife lost their 2-year-old son, Ayumu, in the disaster. They will receive ¥3 million from the town of Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, after appealing the dismissal of an ¥88 million suit they filed with the Sendai District Court in March.

They brought the suit with another bereaved family. A court decision pertaining to the other child is scheduled for March 20 next year.

The settlement also requires the town office to take seriously the death of a child in its care, offer condolences and pledge to ensure the safety of children in its care in future.

Speaking at a press conference, Shibuya praised the inclusion of a pledge for safety, saying his son’s death had occurred because the town neglected its basic responsibilities.

“We want (the town) to go back to basics in offering child care,” he said.

Municipal authorities said in a statement they do not believe the town is liable for damages, but “decided to settle, while solemnly accepting that a child died in our care.”

The lower court ruling said children were kept at the nursery following a town official’s instructions after the earthquake struck on March 11, 2011. But three of its children died in a car during an evacuation attempt about an hour and 15 minutes later, when the tsunami struck.

In turning down the suit, the district court ruled that officials could not have predicted the tsunami.

Coronavirus banner