Hiroshima Radioactive 'Black Rain' Victims Recognized as Atomic Bomb Survivors

A court in Japan has ruled that 84 people who were exposed to radioactive "black rain" in the wake of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima during the Second World War can receive state health care benefits from the government.

The Hiroshima High Court upheld a district court decision in July 2020 which declared that dozens of people who fell ill in the wake of the bombing but were outside of a zone previously set by the government should also be certified as survivors of the bombing.

Kyodo News reported that the 84 plaintiffs, who are all aged between their late 70s and 90s, said they suffered illnesses such as cancer after being exposed to radioactive rainfall—also known as "black rain"—as well as digesting water and food which had been contaminated with radiation due to the bombing of Hiroshima.

The plaintiffs were in areas northwest of where the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb ever to be used during a war on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing around 140,000 people and destroying almost the entire city.

Just a few hours after the bombing of Hiroshima, the black rain began falling on areas in which the elderly survivors were located.

Now that the black rain victims are officially recognized as survivors of the atomic bomb, referred to as "hibakusha" in Japan, they are eligible to receive free health checkups and other medical benefits if they develop further illnesses related to radiation exposure.

The battle to be officially listed as hibakusha has run on for years and began with the plaintiffs filing a lawsuit in 2015 against Hiroshima Prefecture and Hiroshima City.

One of the plaintiffs, Minoru Honke, exposed to black rain at just four years old, said more than a dozen people had died before the Hiroshima District Court ruled last July that they can be as recognized as atomic bomb survivors.

"I want to tell them that we won," he said in 2020, reported the Associated Press.

Masaaki Takano, head of the plaintiffs, told Kyodo News he was expecting "a complete victory" ahead of the High Court's ruling on Wednesday, July 14: "There is no factor to reverse the lower court decision."

America's atomic bombing of Hiroshima and then Nagasaki on August 9 in the dying days of World War II preceded the Japanese surrender.

It is estimated that the combined total death toll for the atomic bombings is as high as 226,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians.

Hiroshima black rain
: A boy floats a candle lit paper lantern on the river in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome during 70th anniversary activities, commemorating the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on August 6, 2015 in Hiroshima, Japan. A Japanese high court ruled that 84 people who were exposed to radioactive "black rain" after bombing can be officially recognized as survivors. Chris McGrath/Getty Images