Near the centre of the explosion, people were instantaneously vapourised by the seeing heat, leaving only their shadows scorched into the stonework of walls or roads.
Thousands more were killed by being blown to bits, more commonly being hurled against solid subjects, crushed beneath falling buildings.
Others were simply cremated into charred corpses or hideously burned with great patches of skin stipped from their bodies and hanging in flaps around them.
In Hiroshima, 13 square kilometres of area was devastated and 92 per cent of its buildings were destryed. Over 2,00,000 of its estimated population of 3,50,000 were killed.
In Nagasaki, 6.7 square kilometres of area was devastated and 36 per cent of its buildings were destroyed. Over 1,40,000 of its estimated population of 2,70,000 were killed.
Eyes of Survivors
The searing image of the atomic blast was etched in the minds of survivors. The survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made thousands of sketches.
“Seeking water, people swarm to the water tanks and die even as they drink,” wrote 16-year-old Kiaki as a caption to her painting
“They held their arms bent forward… and their skin – not only on their but on their bodies hang down….They did not look like people in this world… They had a special way of thinking…very slowly… I myself was one of them.”
This was the caption given to his painting, by 46-year-old Kobayashi Masao. His painting showed the scene at about 9 am, August 6, when people seeking refuge from the city crossed the Ohata river. Many lay by the water with no energy to go further.
Fate of the Injured
Most of the medical facilities in the two cities were destroyed and over 90 per cent of the medical personnel were either killed or disabled. Thus, a great many of the injured could get but little immediate attention.Photographer Matsushige Mitsue recalls that a policeman was treated burns with oil-soaked rags. “As I came near and raised my camera, my tears blurred the finder so that I could hardly see to take it.”
Deprived of adequate medical aid, thousands upon thousands of the injured died in agony.
The living envied the dead. People continued to die of radiation sickness, burns, cancers and other diseases. Today, there are nearly 400,000 Hibakushas or atomic bomb survivors(both first and second generation), many of whom have suffered or are suffering from the delayed after effects.(This refers to figures of 1987, when this book was published. In the year 2001, there are approximately 300,000 Hibakushas)
Compiled by Parul Dewan from ‘Darkness of a Thousand Suns’- Causes, Complexion and Consequences of the Nuclear Arms Race, by Delhi Science Forum