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Families of 2 kindergarten kids killed by tsunami to file suit

43 Comments

The families of two kindergarten children lost in the March 11 disaster are filing a lawsuit against a local government in Miyagi Prefecture for what they are calling dereliction of its duty to protect their children.

According to a TBS report, three children were killed when the tsunami engulfed a kindergarten playground in Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture. The families of two of the children say that staff at the kindergarten contacted the local government to ask for advice and were told to stand by and await evacuation. The children were then brought to the kindergarten yard where the families say no rescue arrived. The families involved lost children aged 2 and 6 in the tragedy, TBS reported.

This is not the first time a suit has been filed over the deaths of kindergarten children in the disaster. In August, the parents of four children who died when their kindergarten bus was swept away by the tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, sued the kindergarten for 270 million yen damages.

In that case, the families claimed that the kindergarten sent out the school bus despite having been alerted 20 minutes earlier that a large tsunami was approaching. They say the children should have been kept at the kindergarten which is located on higher ground. The bus left the kindergarten with 12 children, and dropped seven off before it was hit by the tsunami. It caught fire, killing the remaining five children.

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Looks like the beginning of a new Tsunami....of lawsuits

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Stupid stupid kindergarten!! RIP innocent Little angels!!

-14 ( +4 / -18 )

When I read the headline I was thinking these people were just getting over-litigious, but after reading why I must say I'm glad they are standing up and putting up a fight instead of simply accepting the bowing and apologies. It was indeed dereliction of duty on the part of the government, and poor little ones died as a result. I suspect nothing will come of this, as the court protects the inept fools in government more often than not, but good on these people for standing up.

4 ( +12 / -8 )

I think there was probably a massive amount of confusion and panic, wasn't easy for anyone! Everything happened so quickly.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

I agree zichi. Who knows what was going on that day? Maybe the rescue vehicle got washed away before it could get to the kindergarten.

It's very easy after the event to say the government should have done this, TEPCO should have done that, teachers should have done this. Nobody had any idea of how cataclysmic the tsunami was until it was upon them.

In a chaotic situation like that, there are going to be losses unfortunately.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

It caught fire, killing the remaining five children.

Tragic, RIP little children so sad.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I think from what we now know about the disaster, especially the tsunami, I think it's quite amazing many more weren't killed. Imagine if it had happened in the middle of the night, when people were sleeping?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Poor kids, and poor parents. RIP. I cannot imagine the terror these people must have felt when the tsunami reached the coast.

I don't think these parents are over-litigious, because it is common knowledge in Japan (it is written in any official publication) that people living in coastal areas need to evacuate to higher ground immediately after an earthquake (in addition, the tsunami warnings were broadcasted immediately after the first shake). Children should have been brought immediately (within the next 2 minutes) to safe grounds (tsunami shelters or on foot to higher grounds).

In this kind of situation, some "automatic" behavior should be enforced by government employees, who shouldn't wait for official orders or outside help. I hope this will help enforcing new safety rules in the future, so that this kind of tragedy does not happen again.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is estimated that a tsunami resulting from Tokai earthquake might reach Shizuoka coast in less than 5 minutes. People should evacuate immediately and not wait for rescue.

From the Shizuoka guidebook PDF:

When an earthquake occurs suddenly, large tsunami waves will come a few minutes later. There will be no time to wait for evacuation advice or instructions. Get to high ground immediately. Undergo night evacuation training beforehand, and find out your evacuation route and the time it will take. (Confirm it by actually taking a walk along the evacuation route.) (Warning) Tsunami waves repeatedly attack the shore . The first wave of a tsunami is not always the largest. Since the warning is necessary, do not go near the shore for a long period of time after an earthquake.

Therefore the orders to wait for rescue could be considered as criminal negligence.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

In some locations there were less than 10-15 minutes from the time of earthquake, which lasted a long time, to the time of the tsunami arrival. The JMA issued the wrong information, under estimating both the strength and possible height of the tsunami.

People thought they would be safe on the second floor but they were not.

Last week on the TV, there was a 6 floor hotel, the first two floors were washed away. The windows on the 4th floor were broken by the tsunami.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

" The families of two of the children say that staff at the kindergarten contacted the local government to ask for advice and were told to stand by and await evacuation. The children were then brought to the kindergarten yard where the families say no rescue arrived. "

When I saw the headline, I expected a frivolous lawsuit, but after reading this I say sue the hell out of the bureaucrat goons! They ordered murder.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

But, but after reading all the news, i thought Japan was ready for tsunamis and earthquakes?!? No idea what to do? Really?

Sarcasm off.

Sue. The only way things will be improved here is if people finally stop bending over and taking it. Step in the right directions. Lets just hope they don't take it too far like some other countries.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

the parents have every right to sue, but they will just be reliving the horrors until this trial concludes, which will take many, many years. i think their lawsuit will do nothing for them or the government officials involved. no amount of money will bring back their children. this lawsuit is a lose-lose situation for everyone.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I don't know what happened, apart from the tsunami, but there are some kindergartens in the my neighborhood, I see the nurses, they are so dumb they never care abut the children. Even when they are trying to do something, most of them are seemingly so unfamiliar with childcare that it's better not to see that at all.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

zichi: "I think there was probably a massive amount of confusion and panic, wasn't easy for anyone! Everything happened so quickly."

Agreed, but in that case the government should not have promised that rescue would be there shortly and they should await the arrival. They literally caused the deaths of these children by doing so.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

First of all, I am surprised they were even able to get hold of the local government office, given that the phone system was pretty much unusable at the time. Here in Tokyo I couldnt get through by cell or landline to anyone.

But the advice given was absolutely wrong. I get that at the time there was chaos and people didnt know what was coming but of all people the ward office should have had a handle on things and regardless of the size of the wave should have advised immediate evacuation as per the Shizuoka info posted above.

However - SURELY the kindergarten should have known this too, AND had previously drilled for this.

Very very sad all round, and I agree that the less people just take this the more likely things are to change. I dont think this is about money at all - no money can replace the children - but it is about holding those responsible to account in the only language they understand.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Can't imagine myself losing 2 children, not even winning the lawsuit will give closure to that ...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Smithinjapan, we don't know what would have happened to children if they didn't wait, they still could have been killed? But I'm not speaking against the parents and their lawsuit.

At one Miyagi school, most of the teachers were killed and about 70 students.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

These children died because those in charge of their protection and custody (teachers) could not make a decision independently (or were afraid of taking any responsibility). Instead they had to call someone else on what they should do.... If that sounds negative, it was not meant to be.

Scenario. Massive earthquake shortly followed by a 'major tsunami warning'... (Yes there is more than just one type of tsunami alert/siren)...

"What should we do... a massive tsunami warning has just been issued:" Response: "Take the children outside and line them up in the playground (which is at sea level and very close to the coast) and just wait for a rescue". "OK will will do that now, thank you for your advice and please hurry with the rescue"... What happens next is a tragic disaster that could have easily been prevented. Around 30 minutes later, the school playground was hit with the full force of the tsunami and all of the little children were swept away.

Scenario 2 (someone capable of thinking for themselves): "Right listen in everybody, a major tsunami warning has just been issued, I know you are all scared and worried. Right now we are in a very dangerous location, so here is what we are going to do... See that tall hill just over there (just 200 meters away) everyone is to climb to the top and wait there until we find out what the rescue plan is. Older children take the hands of the younger ones. Don't rush, take your time and be careful."...

Now had they taken this basic precaution, all of those little children would be alive today. This is what the parents are so upset about. A complete failure of leadership and a total lack of common sense. No matter what the authorities say, there is no excuse for the chain of failures in their procedures and teacher training about safety and prioritizing the children's well being over everything else.

Before anyone jumps to their defense. What would you do when all around you loud 'Major Tsunami' sirens are going off, along with repeated warning messages from the loudspeaker system advising everyone of the approaching danger and that they should get to high ground immediately... Would you sit and wait for someone to come and get you, or walk up the hill that is only a minute or two away by walking?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

For anyone who wants to know more about what happened to those children, there an excellent story in either the August or September 2011 issue of Esquire magazine.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Is there really a hill nearby they could have gotten to?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

maitake - Yes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don't know about the specific case that is the subject of this case, but the most prominent case of a major loss of life at an elementary school (Okawa), there is certainly a hill right next to it (I've been there since the event).

However. It is a steep hillside with no path, it was a snowy day and a potential risk of landslide (after earthquake, remember) and also potentially falling trees. This school is several km from the coast. It's easy to be clever in hindsight, but IMO it is not a no-brainer that very young children should have been ordered to scramble up this steep slope by the staff present. They did consider it.

I don't think the lawsuit in the article refers to this school.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"The bus left the kindergarten with 12 children, and dropped seven off before it was hit by the tsunami."

Oh, and the bus driver fled the scene, leaving the children to die on the bus. Small detail that you omitted.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

When I spent a year teaching by the sea in the first week we had an earthquake drill and that involved going to the top of the school to protect yourself in case of a tsunami.

The fact that there would appear to be no such guideline in place is wrong. Whether it was 5 minutes before the tsunami arrived or 90 minutes, it doesn't matter. There should have been a procedure in place. ALL along that coast are signs saying 'expected tsunami inundation area end'. They've historically had tsunamis. They know the danger of tsunamis.

The procedure may not have saved these children's lives. There may not have been enough time to do anything but it's appalling that there was nothing in place.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Oh, and the bus driver fled the scene, leaving the children to die on the bus. Small detail that you omitted.

Do you have a link for this?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How do they know what happened if there was a tsunami?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lots of people went to the top of their buildings. Lots of people found out that their buildings were either not tall enough, or not strong enough to withstand a 10-15m tsunami (over 40m in some places). The people who died in this tragedy were not all complete idiots (some my have been), but they were taken by surprise by an event which was massively bigger than they had expected - not least because the warning was for a max of 6m...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is Japan. How can anybody NOT know what to do with tsunami? Edo period people knew, that's why they constructed all those warning stones that everybody so eagerly ignored!

Misplaced trust in "authority" got people killed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well said tokyokawasaki! Procedures should have been in place and should have been followed. Waiting around for evacuation orders seems absurd when they could have climbed to higher ground. However, we have to remember that the teachers likely panicked and therefore were not thinking completely clearly. You really need good, strong leadership at a school; someone who is level-headed and a good decision maker even under pressure.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I was thinking if I had been one of the teachers I would have run with the children to the nearest strong 3 floor buildings but looking on Google Earth its a flat farming area and about 1 km to the nearest mountain.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So some kids were evacuated from one school, died, and the parents got a payout? And now we have some parents whose kids were not evactuated, died, and are seeking a payout. Its got to be one or other or neither. Can't be both.

One sucky truth about the government people you will reach in an emergency: they will give you false hope. They won't tell you you are on your own, even if you are. They won't tell you its time to panic, even if it is. For the bullcrap they no doubt said on the phone, reprimands should definitely be passed around.

However, all the parents can blame themselves as much as anyone. They chose to live on the west coast of Japan, actually on the coast. IMHO, that is dereliction of duty as a parent. It was just asking for it.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I entirely agree with tokyokawasaki. These children could have been saved if a little thinking outside the box was done. The parents/families have the full dignified right to sue. And may they win in court.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is Japan. How can anybody NOT know what to do with tsunami? Edo period people knew, that's why they constructed all those warning stones that everybody so eagerly ignored!

YOu do know that those rocks were put there because numerous people died during the tsunami that hit and left it as a reminder, right? Edo period people learned the hard way. Though yes, the locals ignore them - and want to continue ignoring them by rebuilding in areas where the tsunami hit.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Does anyone remember the exact time-line of how the tsunami warnings went? When exactly did they predict a major tsunami, and did they predict it or did they only realise how big it was when the images started coming from helicopters and information from the coastguard? I thought a "major tsunami" warning was for a tsunami at least 5 metres high, not a maximum 5 metres, plus the the strength of the earthquake they could feel themselves in the kindergarten should have told them a couple of kms away wouldn't be enough.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wikipedia has a link to the actual warning, issued at 14:50 for 15:00 arrival in Miyagi of a "6m" tsunami. It's tough to expect everyone to make the right decision in such a short time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The decision was not made in "such a short time" though. It was made when tsunami and earthquake practice drills were formulated and practiced, like all over Japan, every year, for the preceding countless number of years. The school should have had an immediate earthquake and tsunami drill ready to be implemented immediately, and I think therein lies the problem, If they had clearly had a plan and it failed then fair enough, they tried but it wasn't quite enough. Or if they had been hit by an unexpected event you could say fair enough, they were taken by surprise and in that case then yes, not everyone can make the right decision that quickly. But neither of those scenarios apply here. They were not taken by surprise, nobody in Japan has the excuse of being taken by surprise by an earthquake or if living near the coast by a tsunami, and they seemed to have no coherent plan in place in case of a tsunami and how to react to it. I don't mean formulated by the school itself necessarily, but by the BofE or ward office maybe, I don't know who is responsible for disaster drills.

Also as for the tsunami, a "major warning" was issued, with a prediction for 6 metre waves, but a "major warning" is, as I thought, officially a prediction for waves of at least 3 metres, it is not an upper limit, it is a minimum. Basically this implies that due to various variables they can not accurately predict the size of a tsunami from 3 metres upwards, it could be anything from 3 metres to 40 metres. I don't think they should even try to predict the actual size and instead should just say "it will be above 3 metres but we don't know how high exactly. Get out". Saying it will be 6 metres or whatever is extremely dangerous, lulling people into a false sense of security when it actually hit 40 metres in some places.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The families of everyone who died probably have a case against municipalities that did not have high enough sea walls. One town did and the residents all lived so surely every other town was negligent.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Saying it will be 6 metres or whatever is extremely dangerous, lulling people into a false sense of security when it actually hit 40 metres in some places.

Yup. But that is what JMA actually said.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So some kids were evacuated from one school, died, and the parents got a payout? And now we have some parents whose kids were not evactuated, died, and are seeking a payout. Its got to be one or other or neither. Can't be both.

Do you even know the background to the two cases? Both completely different circumstances and both negligent. The evacuated children in the bus were evacuated DOWN a hill and TO the coast.

However, all the parents can blame themselves as much as anyone. They chose to live on the west coast of Japan, actually on the coast. IMHO, that is dereliction of duty as a parent. It was just asking for it.

This is quite the most stupid thing I have ever seen written on here. And it was the east coast, not the west. And most of them didnt choose to live there - they were born and raised there themselves as were their families for generations.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I agree with one poster who said that considering the magnitude of the earthquake and the size of the tsunami, it's a wonder that Japan wasn't more devastated. I also think that it says a lot for Japan's preparedness. Another poster was trying to "satirically" state how poorly Japan is prepared for an earthquake and tsunami, but I believe quite the opposite. This earthquake was record breaking and the tsunami was enormous. Other countries that face earthquakes with several hundred times less intensity are more devastated. I realize that there are some cases which could have been avoided, but things like that happen in disasters. Some people lose their common sense (if they had some to begin with) and make stupid decisions. I agree that had these people had the slightest amount of common sense and USED it, these tragedies could have been avoided.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

3.11 earthquake/tsunami was just huge and everybody was panicky and confused. But still a lot of those lives of kindergarten children could have been saved by proper education for the teachers and the kids.

The lives of 1,927 elementary school children and 999 junior high school children of Kamaishi, a small coastal town in Iwae, managed to survive the tsunami. That's a survival rate of 99.8%. Many people said it was a miracle, but it wasn't. Toshitaka Katada of Gunma University has been visiting Kamaishi and giving disaster education.

That day at Kamaishi-Higashi Junior High School when the earthquake struck the school's intercom system was damaged and didn't function, but the children took it upon themselves to leave the school. "A tsunami is coming," they said, as they headed for the designated evacuation area. The children from the nearby Unosumai Elementary School, who always took part in evacuation drills together with the junior high school kids, followed close behind. Then, as it seemed like the cliff behind the evacuation center might collapse, one of the boys suggested that they move to an even higher place, which they did. Looking back on the road along which they had just come, a cloud of dust caused by the tsunami boiled high into the air. Around this time they encountered some young children fleeing from a local kindergarten. As they fled to higher ground, some junior high kids were leading elementary school children to safety, while others were pushing baby strollers. Before long the designated evacuation area was engulfed by the wave. But the children had just managed to reach higher ground.Kamaishi Elementary School near Kamaishi Port was operating on shortened hours at the end of the school term, so most of the children had already left for the day when the earthquake hit. But all the children from this school managed to survive the tsunami.

The students, teachers, and parents have been learning the following. "Don't put all your faith in hazard maps" No matter how much knowledge you acquire, with time you forget it. To be able act without thinking when a disaster happens, you need to make this knowledge your own through actual practice. With this in mind, elementary schools in Kamaishi spent from five to 15 hours per year on tsunami education.To sum up the disaster education, what he tried to teach children and their parents was that they shouldn't put too much faith in hazard maps. These maps contain places that are considered safe and the high-points that tsunami may reach, based on the latest scientific knowledge. But at the end of the day these are no more than scenarios. Ultimately you have to assess the situation for yourself and act accordingly. No matter how big the tsunami walls and other physical defenses you build are, the tsunami may be bigger than you envisaged. At the end of the day, what you have to rely on is the ability of each member of the community to respond appropriately. This ability can be enhanced through education, training and drills.

The detail is on the website: http://wedge.ismedia.jp/articles/-/1334?page=1

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I totally feel for these parents and will pray that they win their lawsuits.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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