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The Tokyo High Court on Thursday ordered Japan’s government to pay a record 4 billion yen (about $34.8 million) to more than 4,900 people living near Naval Air Facility Atsugi for damage to their health caused by noise from U.S. military aircraft.

The award — the largest in a lawsuit over U.S. military aircraft noise — came in an Atsugi-area residents’ class-action court case against Japan’s government. Chief Judge Toshimi Ouchi dismissed a government appeal, which claimed soundproofing it had installed in homes in Atsugi’s host communities eased the noise problem.

Ouchi ruled that the overall noise situation near the base has yet to be improved, that “residents have been suffering from noise which exceeds a tolerable limit.”

Atsugi-area residents said they welcomed the ruling and urged the government to take further steps to lower noise levels at the air station.

The Japanese Defense Facilities Administration Agency manages facilities used by U.S. forces in Japan. In a statement Thursday, the agency expressed its regret and pledged to “make further effort to improve the living environment of people in communities near Atsugi naval air station.”

Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa said he would urge the Japanese government to remove carrier-based aircraft from Atsugi.

The Japanese and U.S. governments have agreed to a tentative plan to realign U.S. forces in Japan, calling for moving to Iwakuni the carrier air wing now based at Atsugi.

Residents from communities near the air station first sued in September 1997.

The lower court ordered the government to pay 2.7 billion yen (about $23.5 million) for damages up to January 2002. Thursday’s ruling added damages accumulated from then until July 2005, when the court concluded hearing the case.

The court rejected the residents’ attempt to seek compensation for expected future damages.


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