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Lawsuit planned over suicide of 102-year-old amid nuclear crisis

Kyodo

Relatives of a 102-year-old man who committed suicide in 2011 said they will file a damages suit Wednesday against Tokyo Electric Power Co. for the mental agony he suffered in being forced out of his life-long home by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

A total of ¥60 million will be sought against Tepco by three relatives of Fumio Okubo, who was found dead in his home in the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, about a month after the crisis began at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex in March 2011.

Iitate, located about 40 km northwest of the plant, is where Okubo was born and lived his entire life. An evacuation order was issued for the area on April 22, 2011, and is still in force.

According to the plaintiffs, Okubo learned on April 11, 2011, through a television news program that the government planned to issue an evacuation order for his village.

He told his daughter-in-law, Mieko Okubo, 62, that “I don’t want to evacuate.” He also said, “I think I have lived a bit too long.”

The following day, she found Okubo had hanged himself in his room.

In the lawsuit to be filed with the Fukushima District Court, the plaintiffs plan to argue that Okubo “was not able to think about living anywhere else” because his “acquaintances, property and purpose of life were all in the village.”

They will also say that the imminent evacuation order was the cause of his suicide.

Mieko Okubo, who will be one of the plaintiffs, said she still recalls the time she spent with her father-in-law in the living room of their home where they could look out and see a village richly endowed with nature.

Okubo was married and had eight children. He rarely ventured far from his home, and he was healthy and able to walk on his own even in his advanced age.

“I wonder what grandpa had thought when he tried to hang himself,” Mieko Okubo said. “I want others to know there were people who died in such a way due to the nuclear accident.”

At that time, her husband and Okubo’s son, Kazuo Okubo, was struggling with an illness at a hospital in Niigata Prefecture. She did not tell him about his father’s death and he died in June 2011 at the age of 66.

The Fukushima District Court has acknowledged causal links between the nuclear evacuation and suicides in rulings on two lawsuits.