A man who took part in the clean-up after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster has died as a result of radiation exposure.
Japanese authorities confirmed the death on Wednesday, in what is believed to be the country’s first acknowledgement of a connection between a fatality and the incident.
The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry ruled that compensation should be paid to the family of the man who died from lung cancer on an unspecified date, an official said, according to reports.
The man, who has not been named, spent his career working at nuclear plants around Japan and worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant – operated by Tokyo Electric Power – at least twice after the March 2011 meltdowns caused by a magnitude-9 earthquake.
A resulting tsunami killed around 18,000 people in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes when the nuclear plant’s cooling system failed, causing the release of radioactive materials. An area near the plants remains uninhabitable.
The man was diagnosed with cancer in February 2016, the official said, despite wearing a full-face mask and protective suit during his career.
Sky News said the man, who was in his 50s, was in charge of measuring radiation at the plant and worked there until December 2011.
The victim’s family asked for his name and date of birth to remain private.
Japanese daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun said 17 plant workers have filed for compensation and that the Japanese government has paid compensation to four of them. Five claims have been rejected.
Meanwhile, at least two people are dead and 32 missing after a 6.7-magnitude quake struck the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido just after 3am Thursday local time.