Naha residents take their Futenma noise complaints to court
OKINAWA CITY — For the first time since they filed a lawsuit in 2002, residents of Ginowan on Thursday gave their personal accounts of the suffering they claim is due to aircraft noise from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Testifying before a panel of three judges in the Naha General District Court branch here, five residents representing the 404 plaintiffs in the case against the Japanese government said they suffered physical and mental damage from living near the base.
The plaintiffs are seeking $2.56 million in compensation and a halt to all flight operations from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
“Whenever they adjust engines, it lasts as long as four hours,” Tatsuno Kuba, emotionally told the court. “I begin to feel as if my body is being crushed.
“Three years ago, I was diagnosed with panic disorder,” she said, pausing to take a deep breath. She said she had irregular heartbeats and sometimes had trouble breathing.
Kuba’s home is about 30 feet away from the air station’s fence line.
“When a helicopter flies over my house, I can clearly see the pilot’s face,” she said. “It is so close that I think if I throw a stone, it can hit the helicopter.”
She said the noise also has affected the health of her four children. Her 6-year-old son was diagnosed as hearing-impaired when he was 3 years old, she said. “When he became old enough to pick up a phone, we realized that he could not hear anything with his left ear.”
She said her anxiety increased after a Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter crashed on a university campus adjacent to the air station in August 2004. It was a few blocks from her home.
“When the accident occurred, my instant thought was that now the rest of the country would share our fear and sufferings,” she said. “Yet, nothing has changed.”
During cross-examination, a government attorney noted that Kuba was first diagnosed with a panic disorder while pregnant with one of her children and wondered whether that was the real cause of her condition.
“My doctor said that the cause cannot be specified,” she answered. “But if the air station is closed, I know all the troubles that have tormented me for a long time will go away.”
Another resident who lives the air station’s flight line said that he and his family suffered from noise generated by touch-and-go training.
“Once it starts, it is repeated every five minutes and lasts for about one to two hours,” he said. “It is very irritating, making me feel very depressed.”
The aircraft noise also disturbs dogs, he added.
“Whenever the aircraft noise occurs, my next door neighbor’s dog furiously barks,” he said. “So, I have to deal with twice the noise.”
The next hearing in the case is set for April 26.