31 July, 2020
5 Min Read
Hiroshima Black Rain
GS-Paper-3 Environment (PT)
Recently, a district court of Hiroshima (Japan) has recognised 84 survivors of the post-nuclear explosion “black rain” as the atomic bomb survivors enabling them to avail benefits like free medical care.
Nuclear Explosion: In 1945, the USA dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August respectively, which marked the end of World War II. 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the incident.
The explosion and resultant firestorms are believed to have killed around 80,000 people in Hiroshima and around 40,000 people in Nagasaki. Thousands more died in the following years due to the exposure to radiation from the blast and also from the black rain that fell in the aftermath of the explosions.
Black Rain: The debris and soot from the destroyed buildings in Hiroshima (estimated 69% of the buildings was destroyed) mixed with the radioactive fallout from the bomb, rose high into the atmosphere in the form of a mushroom cloud. This material combined with the vapour in the atmosphere and came down as dark drops of liquid that have been called black rain.
Survivors describe it as consisting of large, greasy drops that are much heavier than normal raindrops. Nagasaki witnessed less black rain despite the fact that the nuclear bomb dropped on it was more powerful than Hiroshima’s. It killed fewer people and its effects were confined to a smaller area because of Nagasaki’s geographical position between hills. The blast did not produce firestorms and the material contributing to black rain was less.
Black rain is full of highly radioactive material and exposure to it can result in serious illnesses. A study conducted in 1945 showed that black rain had come down as far as 29 km away from ground zero. In relation to nuclear explosions and other large bombs, ground zero is the point on the Earth's surface closest to a detonation.
In the case of an explosion above the ground, ground zero is the point on the ground directly below the nuclear detonation and is sometimes called the hypocenter. The rain contaminated everything it came in contact with. Dead fish were reported floating in water bodies and severely ill cattle were seen lying in the fields.
Black rain caused Acute Radiation Symptoms (ARS) in many who were exposed to it. These symptoms include nausea, diarrhoea, fever, sore throat and loss of hair. Over time, many people who were exposed to black rain have developed cancer as well.
Effects of the Ruling:
The Hiroshima District Court ruling recognises the plaintiffs as Hibakusha (Japanese term for the survivors of the nuclear blasts). It gives hope to many others because the decision may pave the way for the government to reconsider the limits it has set on who can be considered a survivor of the atomic bomb.
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