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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora