• Kyodo

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Former fishing boat crew members who developed cancer and other symptoms after sailing close to a 1954 U.S. hydrogen bomb test site in the Bikini Atoll plan to seek workers’ compensation next month, a doctor supporting them said Wednesday.

So far only crew members of tuna fishing boat Fukuryu Maru No. 5 have been compensated under the scheme, according to a civil group based in Kochi Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku.

Around eight people — former crew members and their bereaved families — living in Kochi will apply for compensation in February under the seamen’s insurance managed by the Japan Health Insurance Association.

Hajime Kikima, a doctor helping such former crew members, told reporters in the Kochi Prefectural Government building, “Former crew members should be helped as they have suffered damage not different from that of atomic bombing survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Kikima and officials of the support group have interviewed former crew members who are planning to apply for compensation to confirm their intentions. The group will collect blood test results, medical certificates and other necessary items.

In September 2014, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare released documents on a survey of the radiation exposure of ships other than the Fukuryu Maru that were in the vicinity of the test site.

But the results suggested the radiation levels did not exceed permissible levels, the ministry said, adding they were “below the levels that could damage health.”

Yutaka Kuwano, 83, who is considering the application, said, “It took more than 60 years since the tests. It’s too late if I think of my friends who have died.”

“I want (the public) to know there are a lot of people who are suffering other than (crews of) Fukuryu Maru,” he added.

Fukuryu Maru, also known as the Lucky Dragon, was fishing for tuna 160 kilometers east of the Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954, when the United States tested the hydrogen bomb, which was 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb it dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

The United States in January 1955 paid Japan $2 million, which was then worth about ¥720 million, in a political settlement between the two countries. An average of ¥2 million was paid to each former Fukuryu Maru crew member.

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