Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

A seventh court ruling has ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay compensation to evacuees whose daily lives were turned upside down after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The Iwaki branch of the Fukushima District Court on March 22 ordered the utility to pay a total of 610 million yen ($5.8 million) in compensation to 213 plaintiffs. The court said the company failed to take measures that could have prevented or reduced the damage to the nuclear plant from the tsunami that devastated coastal areas of the Tohoku region.

Like some previous rulings against TEPCO, the Iwaki branch awarded a compensation amount that went beyond the central government’s guidelines. The ruling included payments for the “loss of one’s hometown,” which covers the destruction of community life, concerns about radiation exposure as well as loss of psychological support.

The court ordered an additional 700,000 yen to 1.5 million yen per plaintiff depending on the evacuation order level that was issued for their neighborhoods.

The central government was not named as a defendant in the latest lawsuit, but the trend so far could influence other litigation before various district courts around Japan. About 30 lawsuits have been filed by Fukushima evacuees.

In five of the seven lawsuits in which the central government has been named as a defendant, four rulings have ordered Tokyo to pay compensation as well.

In those four rulings, the district courts pointed to a 2002 study that mentioned the possibility of a tsunami-spawning earthquake striking in a wide area ranging from off the Sanriku coast in the Tohoku region to off the coast of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture.

Based on that study, TEPCO calculated that a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters could possibly hit the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The four rulings concluded the central government was responsible for compensation because of its failure to instruct TEPCO to take measures that could have limited the tsunami damage to the plant.

The rulings have varied in their judgments on when it was possible to assume a tsunami would strike off the coast where the nuclear plant is located. The periods have ranged from “sometime within 2002” to “2006 at the latest.”

The rulings have also varied on when the central government should have issued instructions or orders to TEPCO, from “about the end of 2002” to “March 2008 at the latest.”