Half of survivors of the 1945 atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima still report feeling guilty.
The Yomiuri Shimbun and Hiroshima University’s Center for Peace surveyed 100 people who were within 1.2 miles of the hypocenters of the atomic bombings, prior to the 73rd anniversary of the event.
Half of the survivors, known as hibakusha, said they were unable to save other people in need of help at the time of the bombings, with more than 70 percent of them saying they still feel guilty about it.
In Hiroshima, nearly all the buildings within the 1.2 miles of the hypocenter were destroyed. In Nagasaki, which has a basin-shaped terrain, about 80 percent of buildings collapsed and wide expanses were burned.
In both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the fatality rate stood at more than 80 percent within .6 miles of the hypocenters, 50 percent in areas from .6 to .9 miles and 20 to 30 percent from .9 to 1.2 miles.
These areas clearly showed the horror of nuclear weapons.
The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews from April to July.
When asked if they were unable to save the lives of their families and other people close to them, or those who were in need of help, 47 respondents said “Yes.” Of them, 35 respondents replied, “Even now, I sometimes feel a heavy burden on my mind and feel guilty.”
Many survivors revealed their grievous emotional suffering when the city was destroyed and people were lying on the ground on the brink of death. An 87-year-old Nagasaki man said, “People who wanted water grabbed my foot, but I told them the lie that I would come back with water and just left.”
When asked about how they deal with such feelings, an 88-year-old Nagasaki woman said, “As I felt that I had a responsibility to pass down the catastrophe on behalf of those who died, I devoted myself to activities to talk about what I experienced.”
On the other hand, an 89-year-old Hiroshima woman said, “I couldn’t talk about my experiences until I turned 80 because doing so is like confessing sins, which is painful and shameful.”
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the number of people with Atomic Bomb Survivor’s Certificates stood at 154,859 as of March this year, down 60 percent from 1980 when the number was highest. The average age of survivors is now 82.06.
The survey also underscored the difficulty of hibakusha to convey the severity of their experiences to generations who know little about the war.
Sixty-four respondents said the threat of nuclear weapons is “not so much or barely” passed down to the next generation.
Only six respondents said the threat is well recognized.