Thursday, 6 August 2015

Hiroshima - 70 years on

In this week’s Cornish Guardian, my column marks today’s anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. It is as follows:

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which took place on 6th August 1945. It was the first time that a nuclear bomb had been used and it is variously estimated that between 90,000 – 166,000 people lost their lives.

Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has vividly described the effect of the bomb, which destroyed 13 square kilometres of the city:

“The heart of the explosion reached a temperature of several million degrees centigrade, resulting in a heat flash over a wide area, vapourising all human tissue. Within a radius of half a mile of the centre of the blast, every person was killed. All that was left of people caught out in the open were their shadows burnt into stone. Beyond this central area, people were killed by the heat and blast waves, either out in the open or inside buildings collapsing and bursting into flames.”

On 9th August 1945, a second nuclear bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing between 40,000 and 80,000 people.

As we mark these important anniversaries, I believe it is essential that we remember the terrible destructive powers of such weapons and the death and suffering that they cause.

In preparing this week’s column, I have read much about how the men, women and children of the two Japanese cities did not just die in the blast, but in subsequent months and years from the radiation and related illnesses.

I came across mention of Sadako Sasaki. She was only two years old when Hiroshima was bombed and, about ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukaemia. She was told that she had less than a year to live. Sadako knew of a Japanese legend that said: “if you make a thousand paper cranes, you get one wish.” She spent the rest of her life folding such cranes, but had only managed 644 by the time of her death.

Her school-friends then successfully raised the money to build a monument in her memory which, by association, also remembers the thousands of children who died in the Hiroshima bombing. It also symbolizes hope for a better future and, at the base of the monument, there is an inscription: “This is our cry. This our prayer. Building peace in the world.”

It is my hope that on 6th and 9th August, politicians from around the world will remember Sadako Sasaki and all the other victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that they will seriously push for full nuclear disarmament so that such weapons can never again be used.