‘It kills slowly, painfully’: Nagasaki atomic explosion survivor has a message for US, North Korea
Nobu Hanaoka was only 8-months-old when the US dropped Fat Man -- a Plutonium bomb -- on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.Updated: Sep 25, 2017 14:00 IST
“Does he have all five fingers?” This was a Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor’s first question to the doctor when his son was born.
Nobu Hanaoka, 73, says he was relieved when the doctor replied that his son was in perfect health. “I had hoped that the radiation did not affect the child,” Hanaoka told Al Jazeera.
Hanaoka was only eight months old when the US dropped ‘Fat Man’ -- a Plutonium bomb -- on the Japanese city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, killing about 74,000 people. Three days before, ‘Little Boy’ -- the first-ever atomic bomb, dropped on Hiroshima -- had claimed 140,000 lives.
Hanaoka -- clad in a simple, grey coat, has a message for the United States and North Korea as tensions escalate between the two countries over the possibility of a nuclear war.
“This is the kind of weapon that doesn’t just kill. It kills indiscriminately. It kills slowly and painfully.”
“And it shouldn’t be allowed on the surface of the Earth,” the survivor says after a pause.
“We were not even in the city of Nagasaki. We were outside. And yet the radiation that came from the bombing went far beyond the city limits,” Hanaoka said, before explaining the three ways an atomic bomb can kill.
Hanaoka’s mother and sister died due to radiation when he was six, he says, adding that he overheard the doctor telling his father the boy wouldn’t live to see his 10th birthday. “So I knew that I was not going to live long,” Hanaoka says in the video.
The atomic bomb survivor says he was always concerned for his health and feared he was dying when he got a simple cold. He also had survivor’s guilt, a mental condition in which a person feels remorse for surviving a traumatic event when others did not. “Why did my sister and mother, who were wonderful people... beautiful and smart and gentle, and they had to die.”
“And yet, I, who am not unworthy, am still alive?”
“I want all nations to come together and start finding a way of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether,” Hanaoka tells Al Jazeera after warning that there will be millions of casualties if either the US or North Korea is attacked with radioactive weapons.
North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations General Assembly last week that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Donald Trump called Pyongyang’s leader a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.
Trump, too, dialled up the rhetoric against North Korea over the weekend, warning Ho that he and its leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” as Pyongyang staged a major anti-US rally.
The North had threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and fired two missiles over the northern island of Hokkaido in the space of less than a month. Pyongyang said this month it had carried out an underground test on a hydrogen bomb estimated to be 16 times the size of the US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945. It was its sixth and largest nuclear test.
Survivors of Hiroshima-Nagasaki -- the only two nuclear attacks in the history of mankind -- warned of the threat of atomic weapons in a photo essay by the Time magazine last month. It quoted another survivor Fujio Torikoshi (86) as saying all he wanted was to forget the bombing. “We cannot continue to sacrifice precious lives to warfare. All I can do is pray – earnestly, relentlessly – for world peace.”
(With agency inputs)