Almost everything and all people located at the hypocenters of the bombs was immediately
vaporized due to the extremely high temperatures (up to 20 million degrees Fahrenheit)
generated by the explosions. Moving in a radius outward from the hypocenters into the
blast areas, injuries suffered by individuals were heat-related (burns),
caused by collapsing buildings and flying objects (from shockwave) and related to acute,
high level radiation exposure (Radiation Effects Research Foundation, 2006). Outside the
blast areas, individuals suffered heat, radiation, and fire related deaths and injuries.
On the outer fringes of the affected areas, casualties resulted from longer-term health
problems. Figure 1 (Radiation Effects Research Foundation, 2003) depicts the types of
injuries received based on distance of individuals from the hypocenters.
For an animated timeline of symptoms experienced by individuals in the blast areas from
August until December, 1945 click here:
Most casualties to inhabitants resulted from flash burns from primary heat waves
emanating directly from the explosions (Atomic Bomb Website, 2006). During the
explosions, along with extreme heat waves, intense light was emitted (about ten
times brighter than the sun). Figure 2 is a photograph depicting the clothing
patterns burned into the back of a Hiroshima woman.
Figure 3 is a photo of the burns suffered by a boy who was sixteen and
riding his bicycle to deliver a telegram message at the time of the bombing (about 2
kilometers from the hypocenter). He did not suffer fatal injuries but spent over three years in a hospital.
To read his personal account of the day of the bombing and what happened to
him, click on the following link:
Most fatalities, according to Japanese estimates, resulted from flash burns
(the Japanese report 75 percent, while other reports hover around 50 percent)
(The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, 2006). Figure 4
is the photograph of the burned corpse of a young boy, believed to have been a Nagasaki mobilized student worker.
The intensity of the blasts, and the resulting shockwaves and accompanying wind
forces resulted in collapsed roofs, walls, and flying glass and debris which resulted
in many mechanical injuries to individuals in the blast areas. These people suffered a
variety of injuries including broken bones, lacerations, and abrasions; many of these
injuries were fatal (The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, 2006).
All radiation injuries occurred within the first minute of the explosions.
Degree of radiation exposure was dependent upon each individual's location
from the hypocenters, and degree of shelter, if any, one was experiencing at the
moment of the explosions (whether or not one was in a building and what the building was
composed of versus being out in the open) (Schull, 1995). The early symptoms of ionization
radiation exposure reported included epilation (hair loss), petichae (bleeding into skin),
mouth and throat lesions, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever (The Avalon Project at Yale Law
School, 2006). Figure 5 is a photograph of a young girl's hair loss (epilation) following
her exposure from within a wooden structure a little over two kilometers from the hypocenter.
Figure 6 is a photograph of an 18-year old woman located 1.1 Km from the Nagasaki Hypocenter.
Radiation Cataracts: A thin layer of transparent epithelial cells located on the capsule
that covers the lens of the eyeball divides as it grows, thus providing function to the lens.
Since dividing cells are particularly susceptible to radiation damage, these cells were adversely
affected in many individuals present in Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the time of the bombings. These
damaged cells typically move toward the rear of the eye and then congregate near the center,
blocking the movement of light directly into the eye. This results in opacity. Symptoms of this disease
generally began appearing in survivors two to three years after the bombings (Radiation Effects Research Foundation, 2003).
Figure 7 is a graph that shows radiation dose versus number of individuals with radiation cataracts, or lens opacity.
Figure 8 is a photo of an eye affected with radiation cataracts. Note the cloudiness of the center eye area.
Non-leukemia Cancers: Research has indicated that atomic bomb survivors have demonstrated an increased
risk of cancer occurrences, initially exhibited anywhere from five to ten years following exposure.
According to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission - Radiation Effects Research Foundation Life Span Study,
by 1990, 4,687 deaths from non-leukemia cancers had been reported of the 50,113 Life Span survivors receiving
significant radiation exposures during the bombings. It is estimated that had the bombings not taken place,
4,306 deaths from cancer would have occurred (Radiation Effects Research Foundation, 2003). The most
prevalent cancers reported (not including leukemia) included thyroid, breast, and stomach (Scientific Data
Center for the Atomic Bomb Disaster, Nagasaki University, 2006).
Leukemia: Leukemia is considered to be the most apparent long-term effect of radiation
exposure from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As of 1990, there have been 176 leukemia deaths of
individuals receiving significant exposure (of the 50,113 life span survivors previously mentioned). Of
the total cancer deaths within the Hiroshima/Nagasaki survivor population, leukemia accounts for 20 percent.
In the general population, leukemia accounts for approximately four percent of cancer deaths. To read the personal
story of a young girl (Sadako Sasaki) who was exposed to the bombing of Hiroshima at the age of two and who
later developed leukemia, click on this link:
Keloids: Within about two years of the bombings, those who suffered burn injuries
began experiencing abnormal growth of scar tissue in the burn areas. Specifically, 50-60 percent of those
within a two mile radius of the hypocenters who suffered severe burns developed keloids (irregular
masses of rapidly reproducing scar tissue). These abnormal growths created a great deal of physical
pain (especially if they occurred at a joint area) and emotional distress as they were quite disfiguring.
Figure 9 is a photograph of a young girl with keloids on her backside and arms.
Figure 10 shows the neck and shoulder keloid scars of another survivor.