August 6 marks the World Day for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This very day in 1945, a US air force aircraft dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, the same fate befell Nagasaki. And although the United States was at war with Japan, there was no military necessity in an atomic bombing, most experts believe.
The Hiroshima bomb exploded nearly 600 meters above the city centre. The consequences of an atomic explosion over a densely populated city were terrifying indeed. The exact number of victims was never specified. It ranges from 140 to 200 thousand. Of those, 70-80 thousand people who were close to the epicenter, died immediately after the explosion. The huge temperature (up to 4-6 thousand degrees Celsius) literally evaporated the bodies of people or turned them into coals. Light radiation caused the silhouettes of bypassers to be imprinted on the ground and buildings and set on fire all the inflammables over a distance of several kilometers from the epicenter. Numerous local fires that simultaneously arose in different parts of the city, met to become a single huge firestorm. The Nagasaki explosion claimed the lives of 80 thousand people simultaneously.
Without knowing the nature of radiation poisoning following an atomic explosion, the doctors treated the survivors as if their wounds were simple burns. But human flesh rotted even upon contact with a needle, and people kept dying mysteriously. Most survivors within a two-kilometer radius were blind, with thousands of people suffering from cataracts due to radiation.
Long-term adverse health effects associated with radiation poisoning, such as an increased risk of cancer, haunted the survivors for the rest of their lives. Just like the psychological shock caused by the deadly experience.
The genetic consequences of nuclear explosions can be considered the most dangerous, since they are not limited to one generation. This legacy will be passed on from generation to generation, manifested in the increased number of adverse pregnancy outcomes and the birth of children with congenital malformations or hereditary diseases.
As demonstrated by present-day research, this can be supplemented by the genetic effects of environmental changes. Humans will have to adapt to new types of microorganisms, modified plants and animals. The balance of nature that has been developing for thousands of years is disturbed, and hereditary background manifests itself differently in the new environment. This leads to adverse reactions to environmental factors and is a source of new forms of disease.
The Japanese call the nuclear nightmare survivors Hibakusha. This category comprises not only the survivors themselves, but the second generation as well, i.e. children born to women who suffered from atomic explosions. They get certain state support, but the Japanese society keeps having a biased attitude towards them, laced with discrimination. For instance, they and their children may have difficulties in getting a job. Therefore, many of them hide their status intentionally.
According to official Japanese records of March 31, 2013 - unfortunately, I do not hold newer information - there were 201 779 Hibakusha among the living. The death toll was about 450 thousand by this time: 286 818 in Hiroshima and 162 083 in Nagasaki.
Every year, a moment of silence is observed to pay tribute to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the United States which dropped bombs on these cities, has never offered its apologies. Neither was a tribunal established to investigate mass killings of the civilian population.
Today, Nagasaki and Hiroshima are thriving metropolitan cities that honor the memory of the 1945 tragedy. Because if humanity forgets this terrible lesson, it is very likely to happen again.