A 90-year-old Taiwanese survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Wednesday recalled the horror of the blast, saying he still relives the terrifying moment in his dreams.
Tsai Chung-chin (蔡崇金), who lives in Chiayi, attended a Nagasaki City Office health consultations in Taipei for Taiwanese survivors of the US atomic bombings.
Born during the Japanese colonial period from 1895 to 1945, Tsai said that back then, sending children to Japan to study was fashionable.
With support from his family, he was traveled to Hiroshima in 1940 as a 12-year-old.
During the war, students in Japan worked in factories after school and were required to attend military training twice a week, Tsai said, adding that there were air raid warnings from time to time.
However, the situation intensified in 1945, he said.
He and a large number of other students were assigned to make engine parts for the Hiroshima Special Forces, Tsai said.
He arrived at the factory at about 7am on Aug. 6 that year, the day the US military dropped the first atomic bomb right before he was about to start work, Tsai said.
There was a loud sound like thunder and all the windows shattered, so he hid under a table, fearing for his life, he said.
His feet were trapped after the table collapsed, he said, but his classmates came to his rescue and carried him out of the factory.
“There was smoke that blinded us as we left the factory and burning ash began to fall from the sky, igniting whatever it touched,” he said.
Hiroshima was on fire, he said.
People who escaped were burned and had peeling skin, 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 the injury to his foot, Tsai said he helped to dig graves with other survivors.
Each day, they laid planks on the bodies, put other bodies above the planks and poured oil over them, burning the bodies to ash, he said.
“At that time, I knew absolutely nothing about nuclear bombs. I had no idea what harm they could cause,” he said.
There were radio programs reminding people that the only safe food available was rice rolls distributed by the military, he said.
Tsai returned to Taiwan in 1946.
He returned to Hiroshima in 1993 to see his former classmates.
The feeling of setting foot on the once-destroyed land again and seeing the city rebuilt was indescribable, he said.
There are at least 1,000 Taiwanese survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Nagasaki City Office said.
However, only 20 people have applied for its atomic bomb survivor health manual, which entitles successful applicants to compensation of ￥34,000 (US$304) per month.
If atomic bomb survivors have cancer as a result of radiation, they would be paid ￥140,000 per month and the Japanese government would also cover their medical expenses, the office said.
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