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189 people who experienced black rain after Hiroshima A-bombing apply for gov't relief

Katsuji Maeda, right, submits his application for an A-bomb survivor certificate to a Hiroshima Municipal Government official in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on Oct. 11, 2021. (Mainichi/Misa Koyama)

HIROSHIMA -- A total of 189 people who were exposed to radioactive black rain outside the area originally deemed eligible for government relief measures applied together for certificates entitling them to free health care and other benefits as A-bomb survivors to the Hiroshima Municipal Government on Oct. 11.

    This move came in response to the Japanese government's indication that it will expand its relief measures to cover more people than before as victims of "black rain" that fell shortly after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, but also at a time when the government has yet to clarify its new method of assessing who is eligible for the benefits and who is not.

    The aim of the group application is to convey the fact that there are many black rain victims who are waiting for the swift implementation of relief measures.

    Starting at 10 a.m., over 100 people, including the applicants themselves and others, visited a conference room in the city of Hiroshima, and submitted applications in which the applicants had written where they had been at the time of the bombing and the conditions of the black rain. About 20 Hiroshima Municipal Government officials handled the paperwork, checking to see if any of them were missing necessary information.

    Ordinarily, interviews would take place about a month later, but a municipal government official explained, "We'd like more time since the national government has yet to indicate how relief measures will be implemented." According to a supporter of the applicants, at least 20 people were also believed to have submitted applications for A-bomb survivor certificates outside the city of Hiroshima on the same day.

    Katsuji Maeda, 85, from the former village of Sunatani in what is part of present-day Saeki Ward in the city of Hiroshima, was rained on by black rain when he was 9 years old. On Oct. 11, he had arranged for a microbus and brought 24 people with him who had been rained on in the same village, like him, 76 years ago. "Under the same sky, we encountered the same black rain," he said. "It is regrettable that we have been neglected for so long. I hope that as many people as possible are able to receive a certificate."

    Applications were submitted from a region that, in three surveys conducted in the past, was determined to be "outside the black rain zone." Yasuo Sumida, 85, who was exposed to black rain some 30 kilometers west of the bomb's hypocenter, in the former village of Yoshiwa, in what is now part of the Hiroshima prefectural city of Hatsukaichi, said, "I want to make an appeal that black rain also fell in Yoshiwa. There was a time when I had almost given up, but I am now upset with the Japanese government, which has not recognized the damage. This time, I want a certificate."

    The Hiroshima Prefectural Government and the Hiroshima Municipal Government have mentioned the possibility that black rain fell on areas that the national government has determined to be outside the rained-on zones, and has made a request to the national government "to design a system that respects the appellate court's ruling and makes those zones eligible for benefits."

    In July, a Hiroshima High Court ruling to recognize 84 people who were in areas that fell outside of the government-designated relief zone was finalized. In response to the government's policy to expand areas to which it will provide relief, a group supporting the lawsuit held a counseling session in September for people outside of the plaintiffs of the lawsuit applying for certificates. The secretary-general for the legal team, Masahiro Takemori, said, "So many of these survivors of black rain long for A-bomb survivor certificates. Everybody is getting older and there's not much time left. The national government should swiftly change its criteria and give out survivor certificates."

    (Japanese original by Misa Koyama, Hiroshima Bureau; Video by Misa Koyama, Kan Takeuchi and Naohiro Yamada)

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