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Taiwanese atom bomb survivor recalls horror of blast

2019/03/07 14:17:26

Tsai Chung-chin (蔡崇金)

Taipei, March 7 (CNA) A 90-year-old Taiwanese survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima recalled the horror of the blast Wednesday, noting that he still relives the terrifying moment in his dreams.

Japan's Nagasaki City Office held a health consultation Wednesday in Taipei for Taiwanese survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings, which was attended by Tsai Chung-chin (蔡崇金), who lives in Chiayi in southern Taiwan.

Born during the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945), Tsai said that back then, sending children to Japan for further study was fashionable.

With his family's financial support, he was able to go to Hiroshima in 1940 when he was 12 years old.

During World War II, students in Japan worked in factories after school and were required to have military training twice each week, Tsai said, adding there were air raid warnings from time to time. The situation became more tense in 1945.

Tsai said he and a large number of other students were assigned to make engine parts for the Hiroshima Special Forces.

He recalls arriving at the factory at around 7 a.m. Aug. 6 that year when the U.S. military dropped the first atomic bomb in human history right before he was about to start work.

Tsai said there was a loud sound like thunder, shattering the windows in the factory, so he hurried to hide under a table, fearing for his life.

"Help!" Tsai shouted in desperation after realizing that his feet were pinned under the crushed table. Luckily, his classmates rushed to his rescue and carried him out of the factory, he recalled.

Tsai said he was blinded by smoke when they left the factory, adding that burning ash fell from the sky, igniting wherever they landed.

Hiroshima City was on fire, he noted.

People who escaped from the city were burned, with peeling skin and burned hair, he said.

An empty plane factory was turned into a temporary shelter, but medicine was nowhere to be found. After a few days, almost all the people from the city were dead, Tsai said.

With no time to care for his own foot injuries, Tsai said he helped to dig graves with other survivors to bury the dead.

Each day, Tsai said, they laid planks on the bodies, put other bodies above the planks and poured oil over them, burning the bodies to ash.

"At that time, I knew absolutely nothing about a nuclear bomb, neither was I aware of what harm it could cause," said Tsai.

He said he remembers there were programs on the radio reminding everyone that the only safe food available was rice rolls distributed by the military.

Life returned to normal when he returned to Taiwan in 1946, Tsai said.

Commenting on a time when he returned to Hiroshima to visit his old classmates in 1993, Tsai said the feeling of setting foot on the once-destroyed land again and seeing that the city has been rebuilt was indescribable.

According to the Nagasaki City Office, there are at least 1,000 survivors of the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Taiwan. However, only 20 people have come forward to apply for the A-bomb survivor health manual, which entitles the applicants to compensation of 34,000 Japanese yen (US$304) per month.

If atomic bomb survivors are suffering from cancer as a result of radiation, they will be paid 140,000 yen per month and the Japanese government will also cover their medical expenses, the office said.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Chung Yu-chen)