Hiroshima court recognises atomic bomb ‘black rain’ victims

A Japanese court says plaintiffs who were exposed to radioactive rain after US attack in 1945 are atomic bomb survivors

A group of supporters for plaintiffs celebrate, holding a banner which reads "Overall victory" outside the Hiroshima district court in Hiroshima, western Japan, Wednesday, July 29, 2020.  A court has recognized people exposed to radioactive “black rain” that fell after the U.S. atomic attack on Hiroshima as atomic bomb survivors, ordering the government to provide the same medical benefits it gives other survivors. (Kyodo News via AP)
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A Japanese court recognised for the first time on Wednesday that people exposed to radioactive “black rain” that fell after the 1945 US atomic attack on Hiroshima are atomic bomb survivors, ordering the city and the prefecture to provide the same government medical benefits as given to other survivors.

The Hiroshima District Court said all 84 plaintiffs who were outside of a zone previously set by the government as where radioactive rain fell also developed radiation-induced illnesses and should be certified as atomic bomb victims. All of the plaintiffs are older than their late 70s, with some in their 90s.

The landmark ruling came a week before the city marks the 75th anniversary of the US attack.

The US dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing 140,000 people and almost destroying the entire city. The plaintiffs were in areas northwest of ground zero where radioactive black rain fell hours after the bomb exploded.

A huge expanse of ruins left the explosion of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima. 140.000 people were killed.(AP Photo)
The ruins left by the explosion of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, when 140.000 people were killed / AP

The plaintiffs have developed illnesses such as cancer and cataracts linked to radiation after they were exposed to black rain, not only that which fell but also by taking water and food in the area contaminated with radiation.

They filed the lawsuit after Hiroshima city and prefectural officials rejected their request to expand the zone to cover their areas where black rain fell.

In its ruling, the court said the plaintiffs’ argument about their exposure was reasonable and that their medical records showed they have health problems linked to radiation exposure.

One of the plaintiffs, Minoru Honke, who was four years old in August 1945, said more than a dozen people died while the court case was decided.

“I want to tell them that we won,” he said.

Osamu Saito, a doctor who has examined atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, welcomed the ruling for considering their welfare based on an assumption that anyone who was in those areas and hit by the rain could have been affected by radiation.

Earlier in the day, dozens of plaintiffs walked into the Hiroshima court in the rain, showing a banner saying “Certificates to all ‘black rain’ victims.” As soon as the ruling was issued, lawyers for the plaintiffs ran out of the court, showing a banner saying “Full victory,” and their supporters applauded and cheered.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government will examine the ruling and respond after consulting with government agencies and Hiroshima officials.