73 Years On, Hiroshima And Nagasaki Survivors Still Grapple With Guilt

Remembrance ceremony in Hiroshima
Remembrance ceremony in Hiroshima

TOKYO — Seventy-three years after atomic bombs laid waste to the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, remaining survivors still bear the physical and psychological scars of the horror they endured. And for many, one of the most troubling aspects of that experience is the lingering guilt they feel, for having survived while so many others perished.

That was one of the findings of a joint survey conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Hiroshima University's Center for Peace. Timed to coincide with the anniversaries this month of the bombings in Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9), the poll was based on interviews with 100 people who were within two kilometers of the detonation sites.

When asked if they were unable to save the lives of their families and other people close to them or those who were in need of help, 47 of the 100 respondents said "yes." Of them, 35 respondents expressed sentiments along the lines of, "Even now, I sometimes feel a heavy burden on my mind and feel guilty."

Researchers conducted the interviews between April and July.

I said I would come back with water, but I just left.

In Hiroshima, almost all of the buildings within two kilometers of ground zero were destroyed and burned down. In Nagasaki, which has basin-shaped terrain, only about 20% of structures within that radius survived. In both cities, the fatality rate for people within one kilometer of the impact sites was higher than 80%. Half the people within 1-1.5 kilometers of the blasts died, and 20 to 30% of people within 1.5-2 kilometers were killed.

Many survivors recall seeing people lying on the ground on the brink of death. "People who wanted water grabbed my foot, but I told them to keep laying there. I said I would come back with water, but I just left," one 87-year-old Nagasaki told the interviewers.

Injured people, 1.1 km from Hiroshima ground zero — Source: Yosuke Yamahata/Wikimedia Commons

When asked about how she deals with such feelings, a Nagasaki woman, 88, said that as a survivor, she made it her responsibility to tell the story of what happened that day." On behalf of those who died, I devoted myself to activities to talk about what I experienced," she said.

Others said the experience was too painful to divulge: "I couldn't talk about my experiences until I turned 80, because doing so is like confessing sins, which is painful and shameful," a 89-year-old Hiroshima woman said.

As of April, the number of people who have an Atomic Bomb Survivor's certificate stood at 154,859 — down 60% since the end of the year 1980, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The average age among survivors is now just above 82.

It's like confessing sins.

The survey also underlined the disconnect that survivors perceive between their experiences and what subsequent generations understand about the bombings, and the threat of nuclear weapons in general. Only six of the 100 respondents said the threat is well recognized among the public.

Still, when asked if Nobel Peace Prize awarded last year to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) would hasten efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, many survivors responded positively. Twenty respondents said, "I strongly think so" and 47 said, "I think so, to a certain extent."

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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