Photo/IllutrationThe legal team for evacuees of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster hold signs stating partial victory at the Kyoto District Court on March 15. (Yoshiko Sato)

KYOTO--The district court here ordered the government and the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 15 to pay a combined 110 million yen ($1 million) to 110 evacuees who fled voluntarily after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Presiding Judge Nobuyoshi Asami at the Kyoto District Court ruled that the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. were liable on grounds that they failed to take adequate measures to protect the plant from the tsunami that inundated the facility after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The court noted the government’s “long-term assessment” for possible earthquakes unleashing tsunami compiled in 2002. The report pointed to the possibility of a powerful earthquake and tsunami striking the plant.

All of the 174 plaintiffs from 57 families had evacuated to Kyoto Prefecture without an evacuation order except for one individual from Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture.

Tomioka was within the 20-kilometer radius from the plant ordered to evacuate after the crisis unfolded on March 11, 2011, triggered by the magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami.

Apart from Fukushima, the plaintiffs were from Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal the court decision, as 64 were not awarded compensation.

The plaintiffs sought 846.6 million yen collectively in damages from the government and the utility.

The district court ruling marked the fifth in a series of similar lawsuits brought across the nation.

In all five cases, the respective courts acknowledged TEPCO’s responsibility to pay damages to the plaintiffs.

The Kyoto District Court’s decision was the third to acknowledge the government’s responsibility.

The key issues in the Kyoto case were if the towering tsunami that swamped the plant was foreseen, if the government had authority to force TEPCO to take countermeasures against such an event, and if the amount of compensation paid by TEPCO to voluntary evacuees based on the government’s guidelines was appropriate.

Most of the plaintiffs sought 5.5 million yen each in damages.

In the ruling, the district court determined that TEPCO should pay additional compensation on top of the amount set in the government guidelines to 109 plaintiffs who fled voluntarily despite not being subject to evacuation orders.

The criteria for extra payment are distance from the plant, radiation levels around homes, and family members who require medical attention due to the exposure to radiation.

Among the plaintiffs who were awarded additional compensation were those from Chiba Prefecture, just east of Tokyo and roughly 240 km from Fukushima Prefecture.

The court stated that the extra payment should be based on damage they suffered over two years after they began evacuating.

In the lawsuits filed at three other districts, some of the plaintiffs who evacuated voluntarily were awarded additional compensation, ranging from 10,000 yen to 730,000 yen per person.