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Voices of Evacuees: Joint Lawsuit Begins in Hokkaido

by TODOS SOMOS JAPON

Photo: In November 2012, activists and parents appeal to the head of Reconstruction Agency to reinforce new law to support the life of children who are affected by the nuclear disaster. (Courtesy of  LaborNet Japan)

Here is one of the latest news from Fukushima: the residents of Tamura city (20-40 kilometers from the crippled nuclear plant) was told by the government: “we could not clean up radiation in your town. Radiation is still not low enough for you to live in. But go home anyway, we’ll give you dosimeters to detect radiation on your own.”

This is another lesson for us to recognize the root of the problem; the reconstruction of the area is merely a fantasy,and the government continues to manipulate the population, leaving the lives of many stranded.

Many people chose to evacuate even if they were not ordered to do so. So-called “voluntary evacuees” have continue to live away from home. Some evacuees have been creating autonomous communities throughout Japan. But the situation is still difficult. Many mothers with small children had no choice but to leave the fathers behind to evacuate Fukushima. Many are forced to pay mortgage for their Fukushima home while rebuilding their new life from scratch. Even those who still could not evacuate are also standing up to denounce the radioactive burden imposed by the producers of nuclear energy, while seeing their community break down over what is safe is what is not. Their voices are more and more marginalized today and need our support for their actions.

On June 21, 2013 in Sapporo, Hokkaido (northernmost island of Japan), 43 people who had evacuated from Fukushima area to Hokkaido have filed a lawsuit against TEPCO and the Japanese government. Since Spring 2011, about 4,000 people have moved to Hokkaido from Fukushima and neighboring region, and about 3,000 are still living in there today. Here is the translation of four of the plaintiffs who spoke at the press conference.

Hokkaido Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs Joint Press Conference – June 21, 2013 in Sapporo City

Voices of the Plaintiffs:

Mr. Nakate:
When Fukushima Nuclear accident occurred in March 2011, I was living in Fukushima City with my wife and our two elementary school children. Later in the month, three of them, my wife and the kids evacuated to the western Japan, while I remained alone in Fukushima. We were separated for a year thereafter, until I joined them to together relocate to Sapporo City in Hokkaido, thanks to all the community support here in Sapporo.

I would like to hold not only TEPCO but especially the government of Japan legally accountable. Prior to the crisis, we had lived a modest but happy and peaceful life together in Fukushima. The nuclear disaster took away the joy of our life – seeing the children happily run about in the sun. So I decided to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff in order to have both parties take responsibility for what changed our life. Their irresponsibility weighs on not only ourselves but also those who remained in our hometown – including my own parents, siblings and friends. Together with many people who are still in Fukushima, I am determined to accuse those responsible for this nuclear calamity. Although this lawsuit is going to be a long one, I am ready for this fight, and I appreciate your support.

 

Ms. Shishido:
My name is Takako Shishido. I have been living here in Hokkaido after evacuating my hometown of Date city in Fukushima prefecture. I joined this lawsuit because I have been receiving a many phone calls from others who have also evacuated. I am a representative of self-evacuees resident’s association in Hokkaido. As I have been speaking with other evacuees, they still experience difficulty on daily basis, even after some of the evacuees have been able to somewhat settle down in the new environment. I have been receiving phone calls also from people who are still living in Fukushima. What they tell me is this; in Fukushima, the ‘recovery’ has been much emphasized and there is an atmosphere such as “Fukushima is ok” and “Fukushima returned to normal life”. However, I hear tearful voices from all the phone calls I receive. The people there do not think that it is safe to live in Fukushima. They still buy bottled water. They still buy food from far away places. But they cannot speak out the danger. They cannot say that they are scared. There are evacuees here in Sapporo and the people in Fukushima who cannot raise their own voice for many reasons. Their voices would not be heard unless we, those who can, speak out. If we left our stories unspoken, the media silence will become even more severe. We would like to maintain the ties between the public interests to us by raising our voices like this over and over again.

I hope bringing our voices onto a trial will force the law to investigate both Japanese government and TEPCOs’ responsibilities. For the kind of efforts will surely be necessary in possible accidents of the similar kind waiting to happen in the future. We as evacuees from Fukushima must do our best we can now so that any of our experiences will be looked at as a precedent for the next generations. I am not  trying to represent other people’s voices in my words, but I would like to take the role of spreading their words who are constantly living in this difficult evacuation struggle. Thank you.

 

Mr. Watanabe
My name is Watanabe. With my family of five, I have voluntarily evacuated my home in Fukushima City in June 2011. Ever since March 11th that year, especially after the explosions at the nuclear power plant, we have been living in an extremely strange situation. I joined the lawsuit because I would like to demand the rights to live without the fear of radiation, which should be protected as the common human rights. It is going to be a long struggle and I appreciate in advance for your supports.

 

Mr. Inamori:

My name is Inamori. I have evacuated Koriyama City in Fukushima with my family of five in July 2011. Through this lawsuit, I would like to investigate the responsibilities of TEPCO and the Government. I also feel that in recent months the people have lost interests in what happened two years ago. So I believe that pursuing this collective lawsuit will urge people to pay attention to the nuclear crisis, and remember and reexamine what happened to the people. It will surely bring the attention of TEPCO and the government to the different stories from those who evacuated. I hope that our efforts for the lawsuit will link to the future for the children. Thank you.

 

Ms. Tanisawa:

My name is Tanisawa, and I came here from Minamisoma, Fukushima. I decided to move here because my daughter called to convince me to evacuate. I have been struggling to get used to my new life here, since it has changed 180 degrees. It was always my husband who would prepare document for the disaster compensations from TEPCO, but he has fallen ill and could no longer do it. Then I heard about this lawsuit from a lawyer, and decided to join. I have been barely getting by ever since our financial support was cut off last August, and I cannot allow myself to forgive them for putting us through such a struggle. I myself have illnesses too, and cannot even think of going home to Fukushima where the radiation level gets as high as 4.5 microsievert/hour. So I have joined this lawsuit with the support of defense group, to fight together with other plaintiffs. Thank you for your support.

 

Video archive (in Japanese) : http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/34699655

Read our interview with Takako Shishido, (June 2012): Click HERE

 

 

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