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Rivers and Bridges as First Places of Refuge at the Time of the Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima
A vast research material and literature have been accumulated on the human damages and sufferings caused by the Atomic bombing on Hiroshima. It is, however, our belief that we have not yet been successful in understanding the totality of the damages and sufferings. There seem to be a few missing pieces in the whole picture. One such piece is the behavior of the sufferers on the day of bombing before they arrived at some first aid station, relief station or hospital, or before they died. On the physical damages and sufferings after they arrived in such places of first aid or medical care, or after they were found dead, we have sufficient materials and research results which enable us to reconstruct the damages and sufferings. But, we know little about how they reached such places.
It is for this reason that we try to reconstruct the first evacuation behavior of the sufferers just after the explosion of the atomic bomb before they reached places of first aid. In the present paper, we limit our attention to the cases in Hiroshima and to the behavior of the day of the bombing. We will use, as our data, testimonies collected in the 1985 survey of hibakusha by Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo). An examination of some 4,000 testimonies of those who directly suffered in Hiroshima, rivers and bridges were first places of refuge for many people. Some 800 testimonies mention rivers and bridges as places which they first fled toward. The significance of rivers and bridges as first place of refuge was due to two factors: topographical property of Hiroshima which were divided by seven rivers, and properties of atomic explosion which caused fires and burns.
In this paper, therefore, we concentrate ourselves upon the examination of how people fled to rivers and bridges just after the atomic bomb explosion. We find that there are four typical patterns which our testimonies eloquently testify to. First, many people could not reach the first place of refuge usually due to injuries or heavy radiation (case of failure). Secondly, many were completely exhausted or died when they arrived at a river or a bridge (exhaustion). Thirdly, many others stayed near or at the first place of refuge for reasons other than physical exhaustion or death (sojourn). Fourthly, others could cross rivers and/or bridges and go further to next or final places of refuge for safety, relief and medical care. How the last group of people crossed, or failed to cross, rivers and bridges will be the theme of our next study.
Copyright (c) 2007 Institute for Peace Science, Hiroshima University