Regular nosebleeds, three episodes of cancer and blinding cataracts.
It’s been 75 years since the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima – marking the end of World War II and the dawn of the nuclear age – but survivors like Masaaki Takano still live with it. the results.
“I’m mentally trying to pretend I’m fine,” Takano, 82, told NBC News by phone from Japan in Japanese.
For decades Takano has lived peacefully with his ailments. He was not recognized as a “hibakusha” – a survivor of the bombing – because he was not in the immediate range of the explosion which killed around 140,000 people, vaporizing them instantly or poisoning them slowly.
But last week, a Japanese court finally ruled that he and 83 other plaintiffs had been exposed to dangerous radiation from “black rain” – the nuclear fallout that poured out of the sky as a result of the explosion.
“We are doing this because we want to deliver the truth,” Takano said of the 2015 complaint. “It’s too late to stand up after everyone has died. “
Although the case has renewed public awareness of the bombing and the technology that sparked it, some fear the world has ignored the dangers of nuclear weapons. And today, the awesome and terrifying destructive power unleashed by “Little Boy,” as the Hiroshima bomb was called, still haunts the world in the form of vast stocks of nuclear weapons.
And as the aging Hibakusha die, many fear their stories will fade from the memory of the world.
‘Bigger than lightning’
Takano was at school about 12 miles from the bomb’s hypocenter, or point of detonation, on August 6, 1945. He still remembers seeing a “bigger than lightning” flash and hearing a “massive explosion – bang!”
He was sent home as debris fell from the sky. Seven-year-old Takano said he tried to grab some of the objects while they were showering.
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The following days he had a high fever and diarrhea. Although he recovered, Takano later endured many illnesses due to the radiation exposure. He also lost his mother to cancer 19 years after the bomb was dropped.
For those who are closer to the hypocenter, the damage has come more quickly.
Tetsushi Yonezawa, who turns 86 on Sunday, was traveling on a busy train just 820 meters from the bomb.
Once in the military truck that rescued him and his mother, he remembers seeing people with broken bones sticking out of their flesh and blood dripping from their ears.
An elderly woman “held an eyeball with her hand to prevent it from falling completely.”
The effects persisted.
“I think the next day the war ended,” Yonezawa said. “When I woke up I saw my pillow had turned black. Looking closely, I noticed that it was covered with my hair. I was so surprised I touched my hair and it fell on the sheets. I ran to my mom and she had lost her hair as well. We both lost all of our hair on the same day.
Her mother’s symptoms worsened, including bleeding gums and purple spots all over her skin. She was dead less than a month later, Yonezawa said.
“I think the sad thing is that this legacy is somewhat dead,” said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “There are now a number of developments taking place in the field of nuclear weapons which do not appear to be receiving any public attention.”
According to the institute, there are approximately 13,400 nuclear weapons in the world. The vast majority of them belong to the United States and Russia, with over 6,000 guns each.
Although this is far less than the peak of around 65,000 weapons in the 1980s – a product of the Cold War – today’s warheads are much more powerful.
An exchange of less than 1,000 nuclear weapons could kill up to 100 million people in a matter of hours, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the non-partisan Washington-based Arms Control Association.
“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” he said. “It is in everyone’s best interests to reduce the risk of this happening.”