National / Crime & Legal

Ishinomaki to appeal ruling over tsunami deaths of school students

Kyodo

Ishinomaki Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama said Friday the city will appeal a court ruling that ordered the city and Miyagi Prefecture to pay ¥1.4 billion in damages to the families of public elementary school students killed by the tsunami of March 2011.

Kameyama told reporters in Sendai that the appeal will center on whether a massive tsunami could be predicted and whether the school could have avoided the disastrous consequences, reiterating that it was impossible for the school to foresee the event.

“The responsibility for avoiding consequences is an extremely important perspective for future disaster-prevention education,” Kameyama said.

He said that an extraordinary session of the city assembly will be convened Sunday to submit a bill for filing the appeal.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer said the same day they will discuss whether to respond if the city files an appeal.

The Sendai District Court on Wednesday ruled Okawa Elementary School could have predicted the arrival of a tsunami since a passing city vehicle’s loudspeaker was informing the school of the tsunami’s approach.

The ruling also pointed out that the school failed to fulfill its duty of care by not evacuating children to nearby safer ground.

The city and its third-party panel have revealed that after the magnitude-9 earthquake occurred at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, students at the school were kept in its playground, located about 4 km off the Pacific coast, for some 45 minutes before leaving for higher ground near a river.

A tsunami estimated to measure over 10 meters high hit the coast of Ishinomaki around 3:30 p.m. and flooded the area, engulfing a group of 76 children and 11 teachers who were evacuating. Of the group, only four students and a teacher survived.

The panel set up by the city to look into the case concluded in its final report released in 2014 that the school’s slow decision-making and its decision to evacuate near a riverbank were the direct causes of the casualties.

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