Hiroshima bomb survivors recount 'scene from hell'

Testimonies from two elderly women provide a graphic reminder of the devastation caused by nuclear weapons
Hiroshima bomb survivors recount 'scene from hell'

Two people view the devastated city of Hiroshima in 1948, three years after it was struck by an atomic bomb. (Photo: AFP)

Survivors of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima have recounted the devastation caused by the bomb that killed 140,000 of the Japanese city’s 350,000 residents.

Some survivors spoke to Pope Francis at the meeting for peace at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on Nov. 24, but the most graphic accounts came from two testimonies.

Kojí Hosokawa, 91, was unable to attend the ceremony but her message was read out. She was 17 when the first wartime atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

“I was on the fourth floor of a building 1.3 kilometers from the hypocenter when the bomb was dropped, but I miraculously survived. Of the dozens who were exposed in the same place, I am the only one who is still alive,” she said in her testimony.

“The next day, when I returned to my home in Miyajima, the evacuation destination, I learned that my 13-year-old younger sister who had been doing work as a mobilized student was only 700 meters away and died.

“Even though they survived, many people suffered from keloids throughout their lives as well as from after-effects and prejudice. I have always lived in fear of a recurrence of atomic bomb disease. I think everyone should realize that the atomic bombs were dropped, not on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but on all humanity.

“War makes people crazy, and the ultimate craziness is the atomic bomb that negated human existence.

“Although there is little time left for me, I believe that passing on the experience of Hiroshima to the next generation is the final mission assigned to us A-bomb survivors.”

'People walking side by side like ghosts'

Yoshiko Kajimoto, 88, spoke at the Hiroshima event. She was 14 when the bomb struck and making parts for airplane propellers at a factory 2.3 kilometers north of the hypocenter.

“The moment a blue light flowed through the window, I thought it was a bomb. Then the factory collapsed with a loud sound, and I fainted. I became aware of my friends’ screams, but it was dark and I couldn't move because I was buried under timber and tiles,” she said.

“I realized that a friend was under me, so I called out to see if she was alive. I tried to escape, but my right foot was stuck in the timber. When I finally pulled it out, my shin was torn and bleeding badly. When I went outside, all the surrounding buildings were destroyed. It was as dark as evening and smelled like rotten fish.

“Soon a fire broke out in the neighborhood, and friends who could not walk were evacuated on stretchers. I also helped carry one. Along the way, there were people walking side by side like ghosts, people whose whole body was so burnt that I could not tell the difference between men and women, their hair standing on end, their faces swollen to double size, their lips hanging loose, with both hands held out with burnt skin hanging from them. No one in this world can imagine such a scene of hell.

“In the following days, white smoke was everywhere: Hiroshima had become a crematorium. For a long time I could not remove the bad smell of cremated people from my body and clothes. Three days later, on the way home, I accidentally met my father. He had searched for me for three days, assuming I was dead. I was really happy. However, my father had been exposed to radiation, and after a year and a half he vomited blood and died. When I got home, I had a high fever and a lot of bleeding from my gums.

“My mother died of atomic bomb disease after suffering for 20 years. Two-thirds of my stomach was removed in 1999 because of cancer. Most of my friends have died of cancer. In addition, due to radiation, 74 years later I suffer from leukemia and cancer. I work hard to bear witness that we must not use such terrible atomic bombs again nor let anyone in the world endure such suffering.”

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