News / Asia

Hiroshima Expresses Anger, Fear Over Nuclear Plant Crisis

Hiroshima bomb survivor Keijiro Matsushima in the shadow of the A-bomb (atomic bomb) dome
Hiroshima bomb survivor Keijiro Matsushima in the shadow of the A-bomb (atomic bomb) dome

Multimedia

Audio
Henry Ridgwell

Fears over the potential fallout from the crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant have triggered painful memories in Japan of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings at the end of World War II.  More than any other nation, Japan is only too familiar with the horrors of nuclear radiation.  But survivors of the bombings fear the legacy of 1945 is being forgotten.



Lasting reminders


Keijiro Matsushima takes a walk in the evening sunshine along the banks of the Ota River in Hiroshima - pausing to look up at the A-bomb dome that is one of the few reminders of the horrors that took place in this city.

Keijiro was a 16-year-old student at a school in Hiroshima when, on August 6, 1945, he remembers looking up and seeing two American bombers over the city.


"I just thought, ‘Beautiful planes shining in the morning sun’.  But the next moment there was a very strong flash and a very strong shockwave and heat wave attacked me," he recalled.

Matsushima describes the people he saw as he made his way out of the city.
"Many of them had been so badly burned from head to feet.  Their charcoal-grey skin was peeling from their faces, their arms, their necks," he said.

Lingering consequences

An estimated 45,000 people died on the day of the Hiroshima explosion.  But during the following months, years and decades, the death toll continued to rise - up to an estimated 166,000.

"Even healthy people, seemingly with no injury, no burns, they looked alright - but they became ill all of a sudden with lots of strange symptoms," Matsushima said.  "Like high fever, or bleeding from the gums, or many spots on their bodies.  And even doctors did not know how to deal with them.  People just named them ‘A-bomb diseases’, that is all.”

During the following decades, these diseases would be recognized as forms of radiation sickness.

New fears

Now the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, caused by damage from the tsunami, is unleashing a new wave of radiation over parts of Japan.

The government has evacuated everyone from a 20-kilometer radius around the plant.  In Tokyo - 250 kilometers to the south - parents have been warned not to give tap water to infants, after it was found to contain high levels of a radioactive element.

The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - the so-called ‘hibakusha’ - have become the major source of information on the effects of radiation exposure.

Professor Masaharu Hoshi of Hiroshima University has been studying the effects of radiation on atomic bomb survivors ('hibakusha') for 30 years.
Professor Masaharu Hoshi of Hiroshima University has been studying the effects of radiation on atomic bomb survivors ('hibakusha') for 30 years.

Professor Masaharu Hoshi of Hiroshima University has spent three decades studying them.  He says his biggest fear now is a sudden surge in radiation levels from the Fukushima plant.
He says with Fukushima, one scenario is that people are exposed to radiation gradually over a long time.  That is not a problem.  But if later there is a nuclear explosion and people get exposed over the course of couple of days, that scenario really scares me.

Hoshi says he fears information is being hidden from the public about how serious the situation is.

For example, he says, the government says everyone living beyond a radius of 30 kilometers from the plant is OK staying at home.  But there are still dangerous areas outside that 30-kilometer zone.  He says he believes an 80-kilometer zone, as suggested by the American government, is the far better calculation.

Lessons learned?

Keijiro Matsushima says Japanese people soon forgot the horrors of the atomic bomb after 1945.

“People thought so long as nuclear power is used in peaceful ways, that is OK.   But we should have learned the evil of nuclear power from the experiences of Hiroshima and Nagasakim,” he said.

But, says Matsushima, the threat from Fukushima nuclear plant has reminded Japan of what happened back then - and the whole nation fears what may happen next.

“From now on we will have a very hard time.  I am afraid so.  But we have to do our best to recover and rise up again.  Yes we can!” Matsushima said.

It is in that spirit that the firefighters and engineers battling to prevent disaster at Fukushima have been embraced as heroes.

Japan knows only too well the potential consequences if they fail.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid