Photo/IllutrationJunichiro Hironaka, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, right, speaks at a news conference on Feb. 7 after the Tokyo District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay 3.3 million yen in damages to each plaintiff in a Fukushima nuclear disaster compensation lawsuit. (Ryota Goto)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has been ordered to pay 3.3 million yen ($30,000) each to 318 people who were forced to flee their hometown in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

However, the plaintiffs are unhappy as they sought 10 times that amount.

“We are stripped of our hometown, livelihood and life, and Odaka will not return to what it used to be,” 76-year-old Isao Enei of Minami-Soma said at a news conference after the Feb. 7 verdict at Tokyo District Court. “I am sorry that the judges did not visit and see the situation of Odaka for themselves.”

The plaintiffs are now considering appealing as they had initially sought 33 million yen each in additional damages in the lawsuit.

“It is significant in a way in recognizing ‘damages for the loss of a hometown,’” said Junichiro Hironaka, the plaintiffs' lead lawyer. “But the amount of compensation ordered does not correspond to the actual damages they suffered.”

In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Yuko Mizuno said that the plaintiffs' “right to a stable life in a place that was the foundation of their livelihood had been breached.”

TEPCO said it will respond to the court decision after studying it in detail.

The plaintiffs lived in Minami-Soma’s Odaka district before the triple meltdown at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Odaka was located within the 20-kilometer no-entry zone surrounding the plant from which residents were forced to evacuate.

The plaintiffs contended that TEPCO was liable for causing psychological damage as they were displaced and lost their hometown.

The total that TEPCO must pay to the 318 plaintiffs falls a fraction short of 1.1 billion yen, but the court dismissed claims by three plaintiffs on the grounds that they lived overseas at the time of the accident or for other reasons.

The verdict was the fourth that has been handed down in regard to about 30 similar lawsuits that have been brought across the nation.

In the three other suits, the plaintiffs claimed in the district courts that the government and TEPCO had been negligent, but in the latest case the court was only concerned with the amount of compensation.

The plaintiffs argued for compensation for damages stemming from the evacuation, as well as compensation for a loss of various general benefits that they would have enjoyed if they had continued to reside in their hometown.

The power company rejected the plaintiffs’ claim for additional compensation, citing the payment already made of 8.5 million yen per victim of the nuclear disaster in the district based on the government’s “interim guidelines” for compensation.

It insisted that the plaintiffs' claim that “Odaka has been lost forever” was not proven.

The evacuation order was lifted for most of the district in July 2016.

But the court stated that even after it became possible for residents to return (to Odaka), it “constitutes a serious violation of the plaintiffs' life if the foundations of their livelihood were considerably changed.”

TEPCO argued that the government’s interim compensation guidelines were reasonable.

But the court rejected it, saying the district court will not be bound by the government’s guidelines.

Rulings for similar lawsuits are expected in March at the Kyoto District Court and Tokyo District Court.