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Fukushima Evacuees Allege Discrimination Similar To That Afflicted Upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki Survivors

This is unconscionable:

Rescue teams from two prefectures rejected requests last week to help move patients near the nuclear power plants in Fukushima, citing safety concerns about radiation exposure. But the news has some worried that the discrimination that afflicted Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors after World War II could be resurfacing.

“We felt we had to consider the safety of our staff first,” said Keiji Fujita, manager of the Gifu prefecture fire department, on Wednesday. Mr. Fuji said the rescue workers did not have the proper protective gear to guard them against radiation.

In contrast, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, who were working within the area of Fukushima considered dangerous, wore hazmat suits as they transported patients from hospitals to check points where they were screened for irregular radiation levels. Authorities evacuated people within a 12-mile radius and told those within 18 miles to stay indoors last week as the situation at the reactors escalated.

Fukushima authorities requested evacuation assistance from the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, a subsection of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on March 16. Some prefectures sent emergency teams to the areas the next day. But Gifu and Shizuoka prefecture officials declined requests to help transfer bedridden patients hospitalized within the 6-mile wide ring the government advised people to stay inside, instead caring for patients after they were brought outside the 18-mile radius and cleared through radiation-level tests.

“There were many concerns wondering, ‘Is this safe?’” said Tatsuya Nakano, an official at the Shizuoka prefecture fire department. “In hindsight, perhaps we should have made a more concerted effort to gather information, but we felt we were unable to assess the situation’s safety level (due to the lack of information) at the time of our decision.”

About 760 patients were moved outside the 18-mile perimeter by late Monday. Katsuhiro Kiko, an official in the Fukushima Prefecture Disaster Prevention unit, said all of their radiation levels were deemed safe, based on standards set by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. Mr. Kiko said of the some of the over 420 emergency workers dispatched from prefectural fire departments aiding the endeavor helped evacuate patients within the danger zone alongside Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

Some people have criticized the rescue-workers’ reluctance to assist patients, invoking the term “hibakusha,” a reference to discrimination against atomic-bomb survivors. “I can surely empathize” with the Shizuoka and Gifu fire departments, a Twitter user, “Suzume56,” wrote Wednesday. “But I wonder if they don’t have the feeling to face a dangerous situation bravely.”

“I am the second-generation descendant of a Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor,” another Twitter user, “cheekykey,” said. “I wonder if the ignorant idiots who discriminate against bomb survivors have been in a 60-year time slip?”

A tweet urging people to be conscious of discriminatory attitudes towards Fukushima victims has been circulating online, urging users to share it.


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