The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people, and their effects are still being felt today.
The uranium bomb detonated over Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 had an explosive yield equal to 15,000 tonnes of TNT. It razed and burnt around 70 per cent of all buildings and caused an estimated 140,000 deaths by the end of 1945, along with increased rates of cancer and chronic disease among the survivors. A slightly larger plutonium bomb exploded over Nagasaki three days later levelled 6.7 km2 of the city and killed 74,000 people by the end of 1945. Ground temperatures reached 4,000°C and radioactive rain poured down.
In Hiroshima 90 per cent of physicians and nurses were killed or injured; 42 of 45 hospitals were rendered non-functional; and 70 per cent of victims had combined injuries including, in most cases, severe burns. All the dedicated burn beds around the world would be insufficient to care for the survivors of a single nuclear bomb on any city. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki most victims died without any care to ease their suffering. Some of those who entered the cities after the bombings to provide assistance also died from the radiation.
The incidence of leukaemia among survivors increased noticeably five to six years after the bombings, and about a decade later survivors began suffering from thyroid, breast, lung and other cancers at higher than normal rates. For solid cancers, the added risks related to radiation exposure continue to increase throughout the lifespan of survivors even to this day, almost seven decades after the bombings. Women exposed to the bombings while they were pregnant experienced higher rates of miscarriage and deaths among their infants. Children exposed to radiation in their mother’s womb were more likely to have intellectual disabilities and impaired growth, as well as increased risk of developing cancer.