Nagasaki doctor talks about A-bomb horrors, plight of hibakusha

Kyodo

A Japanese doctor told a nuclear weapons conference in Norway on Monday that atomic bombs are “horrendous” in nature, noting that those dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II unleashed a trio of destructive forces that killed scores and decimated the cities.

Speaking at the conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Masao Tomonaga, director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital, said people near ground zero were burned by 2,000 degree heat rays, hit by nearly 300 kph blast winds and exposed to massive radioactive gamma and neutron rays.

The two-day conference hosted by the Norwegian government opened Monday in Oslo with about 550 participants.

The 69-year-old Tomonaga, who was 2-years-old and living in Nagasaki when the city was bombed, also talked about the long-term effects, including leukemia and other forms of cancer, as well as the psychological and socioeconomic impacts of the atomic bombings.

“The disastrous humanitarian consequences and the horrendous nature of an atomic bomb (are) apparent,” he said in a speech given in English.

While the conference was attended by government representatives and nongovernment organizations from more than 120 countries, representatives from five key nuclear nations — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, which hold a combined 95 percent of the world’s atomic weapons — did not attend, citing the impact on their approaches to nuclear disarmament.

The apparent boycott happened despite Norway’s decision not to debate making nuclear weapons illegal at the conference — a move sparked by fears of a backlash from the nuclear powers.

The Japanese government sent a four-member delegation that included Tomonaga and Terumi Tanaka, the 80-year-old secretary general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations.

According to his research, Tomonaga said in his speech, while the number of leukemia patients had peaked 10 to 15 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there has been a recent increase in a special type of leukemia, called myelodysplastic syndrome, in people who were under the age of 10 at the time of the bombings.

Tomonaga labeled the atomic bomb a “human gene-targeted weapon” that causes continual suffering — even through damage sustained to genes 68 years ago.

Tomonaga, who has no memory of being rescued from the rubble that was Nagasaki by his mother after the bombing, said he feels it is important to speak out about the inhuman nature of the bombs.

“I’ve come to feel that not many people know that hibakushas’ suffering is still continuing,” Tomonaga said prior to the conference.