Memories of nuclear bomb survivors - Part 2 Chapter 4

At the mountain shelter


In clothes which were torn, and barefoot, l tried to climb over the flattened rooftops to the shelter on the hill. Many wounded had the same intention, although they were all stunned by shock. The seriously wounded were allowed to go into the shelter first, followed by the less-seriously wounded. There was no room for those like me who had not been injured.
One man was crawling around on all fours, crying that he was unable to see. His hair was burnt, his face scalded and the skin hanging down covered his eyes. Many people were burned black, with their noses and ears disfigured. Others had their clothes burnt onto their backs or skin was hanging from their hands and feet like rags. Many were pleading for water, and for others whose mouths were covered by flaps of skin, l could only moisten their lips after lifting the flaps of skin from their mouths. In the midst of all those people begging for water and help, l, at 17, felt useless. I felt as if l was sitting on charcoals and hated myself and my inability to help – my heart bled.
The seriously wounded, the first allowed to enter the shelter, died one after the other. They were then laid on straw mats like animals and carried outside. There was nothing around to cover their bodies with, so l broke off tree branches and used them to cover the dead. It was all l could do. No-one was able to identify the deceased. Maybe their relatives were also hovering between life and death, too. The vacant places in the shelter were then occupied by the people who were still alive. Even today, l still think of the dead and wonder if they had found the path to the world of Buddha.

I saw a man climbing laboriously up the hillside like a sleepwalker. I wanted to support him but it was impossible. When l tried to take his hand or grab his arm l couldn’t because the skin peeled off at the slightest touch. A small boy came up to me. His burnt shirt no longer clung to his body, and he was unable to cry out loud. When l carried him on my back, the skin from his chest and abdomen peeled off and stuck to my back. He died the next morning- silently and alone – without any member of his family at his side.
Then l heard someone at the casualty unit calling for assistants who were still mobile. I went to the unit which was situated in the Inasa primary school, just below the shelter. The classrooms and corridors of the school were already full of injured people, but new patients were still being brought there ceaselessly. Even after nightfall the transportation of the injured was continued. The sight of those wounded was terrible. It was like hell on earth. The air was filled with the smell of burnt flesh and dead bodies, together with an indescribable stench of the mixture of sweat, urine and faeces, and the animal-like cries and groans.
On the night of 9th August, the moon shone very brightly over the ruined city of Nagasaki, as if mocking the human beings. I saw the charred body of a man covered with countless splinters of glass, glittering in the moonlight. Tears gushed from my eyes and for a time l couldn’t stop crying.