After decades of alleged neglect, Japan finally recognizes people who lived further away from Hiroshima as survivors of the atomic bombing in 1945.
Landmark ruling: A Hiroshima district court ruled on Wednesday that 84 more plaintiffs, exposed to radioactive “black rain” during World War II, are now entitled to the same medical benefits as those who lived closer to where the bomb fell. The court “ordered the Hiroshima city and prefectural governments to provide free medical treatment” to the victims, reported The Guardian. This comes one week before Hiroshima is set to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on August 6.
Despite living outside the area hit by the bomb attack in August 1945, the plaintiffs suffered from diseases found to be linked to radiation exposure.
The plaintiffs, who are now in their late 70s to 90s, sought official recognition from the government via a suit they filed in 2015 requesting to be officially recognized as “hibakusha” (bombing survivors) but was ultimately turned down by the city of Hiroshima and the prefectural governments.
Since the filing of the lawsuit, over a dozen of the victims have died, according to a plaintiff named Minoru Honke, who was exposed to the black rain when he was 4.
“I want to tell them that we won,” Honke said, according to the Associated Press.
In a press statement, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government had not decided yet if it would appeal the ruling, however.
The attack: During World War II, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons over Japan, hitting Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. As stated by the Quebec Agreement, the bombings required, then obtained, the consent of the United Kingdom when used “against third parties.”
The Hiroshima attack killed and injured an estimated 135,000 people, while the bomb on Nagasaki amounted to about 64,000 people, according to the Atomic Archive.
When the war ended, the Japanese government identified the areas significantly impacted by the nuclear attack and provided free medical care to those in the designated areas at the time.
Those living outside the identified zone, such as the plaintiffs, were affected by the radioactive black rain that fell on the city hours later.
“Fragments of tatami flooring and pens fell from the sky, and then the black rain came,” a deposition reportedly said, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
Another statement noted: “The rain left black stains on my shirt.”
According to the defense (local officials), there was no scientific evidence that black rain had indeed fallen outside the zones officially designated by the government.
In its ruling, the court found that the plaintiffs presented “reasonable” claims that they were affected by the exposure to black rain, citing medical records as proof that they had developed radiation-caused health problems.