A woman whose house was washed away weeps on 29 March 2011 as she talks about the disaster that befell her hometown of Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture. Kuni Takahashi

By Arata Yamamoto, NBC News Producer
13 May 2012

TOKYO, Japan – More than 60 people have committed suicides related to last year’s 9.0 quake and tsunami, which triggered meltdowns at a nuclear plant in Fukushima, the Japanese government says.

The data comes as a family prepares to file the first lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the suicide of Hamako Watanabe, a 58-year-old woman who set herself on fire in wake of the disaster.

In 2011, 55 people committed suicide, with another six cases reported since the beginning of 2012. Suicides linked to the Fukushima nuclear accident are included in the numbers, but attribution to the nuclear crisis has been omitted due to privacy concerns. The data was collected using local police reports since last June.

“We are collecting this information and making it available within the boundary of the victims' privacy to help their work and research," said Ryoko Hagiwara, of the Cabinet Office’s suicide prevention task force. "Unless we understand the actual situation, we cannot come up with any countermeasures."

The victims' age, gender and occupation vary. The causes for the suicides include financial, health, and family-related troubles.

Watanabe’s family will seek $910,000 in damages in the death of Hamako Watanabe from TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, according to The Japan Times and The Mainichi. They plan to file the lawsuit – which would be the first over a suicide linked to the nuclear crisis – on May 18 in Fukushima District Court.

Her husband, Mikio Watanabe, 61, said his wife suffered depression in the aftermath of the March 11 disaster.

The couple lived about 25 miles from the Fukushima power plant and their home had been designated as being within a planned evacuation zone. She killed herself at a garbage incinerator after going back to clean the house in Kawamata, The Japan Times reported.

The couple had moved around after the 9.0 quake and ensuing tsunamis struck, triggering meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and leaving nearly 16,000 dead. […]

A group of lawyers representing victims of the nuclear crisis said her depression and suicide were due to the nuclear disaster, The Mainichi reported. […]

Japan grapples with post-tsunami suicides

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