Woman's fall interrupts environmental survey at Henoko site
Stars and Stripes December 11, 2004
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — An environmental survey for a new Marine air station was suspended briefly Tuesday when a woman in her late 50s was injured after attempting to climb a drilling platform.
The incident took place about 1:58 p.m., said a spokesman for the Japanese Coast Guard in Naha. According to the Coast Guard report, the woman had rowed in a canoe out to the small platform about 1,400 yards offshore and was attempting to climb onto the platform when she fell and injured her back and head.
Platforms are being built in the area by the Defense Facilities Administration Agency’s Naha bureau to bore holes into the seabed to test whether it can accommodate a massive airport to be built on reclaimed land and a reef about two miles offshore from the village of Henoko.
The airport, to be connected to the Marines’ Camp Schwab by a causeway, is to replace the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma.
Environmentalists and anti-base activists have staged a sit-in at the Henoko port since April to stall construction plans. They have been sending small boats out to the drilling platforms daily to harass workers, according to the Coast Guard.
Several pushing incidents involving the protesters and work crews have been reported, but Tuesday was the first time any injuries were reported.
It wasn’t immediately determined by Coast Guard officials whether the woman slipped or was pushed off the platform.
Protesters blamed the survey crew.
“One of the workers ripped her hands off the platform while she was clinging onto it,” said Takuma Higashionna of the Save the Dugong Network, a group that alleges the airport will destroy the feeding grounds of the rare dugong, a saltwater manatee.
The woman fell headfirst into a survey boat tied to the platform, he said.
A DFAA Naha Bureau spokesman said no worker was directly involved in the accident.
“We were informed that a woman in the protest group fell from a board set up about one meter [above] the water surface onto a survey boat, while survey crews were working on the board above the woman,” the spokesman said. “There is no credence to the story that a worker removed her hands from the scaffolding.
“We have been urging protesters to discontinue their interference on the platforms because their actions are very dangerous,” he said. “At the same time, we instruct survey crews to pay the utmost attention to safety as they perform their work.”
Work on the survey resumed Wednesday.