84 victims of atomic bombing 'black rain' eligible for aid, court rules

Japan Times -- Jul 14
The Hiroshima High Court ruled Wednesday that 84 people in Hiroshima are eligible to receive state health care benefits even though they were exposed to radioactive "black rain" following the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing outside an area currently recognized by the government.

Upholding a lower court decision last year, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying they should receive the same benefits as those provided to atomic bomb survivors who were in the zone where the state recognized that black rain fell.

The high court ruling is expected to impact the ongoing review by the central government on areas where black rain fell and its health impact.

In line with a Hiroshima District Court ruling in July last year, the high court recognized all 84 plaintiffs, including deceased individuals succeeded by family members, as hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bombing and ordered the prefectural and city governments of Hiroshima to accept their applications for state health care benefits.

The high court said radioactive rain fell in a wider area beyond the designated zone and the plaintiffs are hibakusha because it is impossible to rule out the possibility they suffered health damage caused by exposure to radiation.

Residents in the black rain zone are eligible to receive free health checkups and atomic bomb survivors certificates entitled to medical benefits in case of developing 11 specific illnesses caused by radiation effects.

But the plaintiffs' applications for health care benefits for atomic bomb survivors filed with the Hiroshima prefectural and city governments between 2015 and 2018 were rejected as they resided outside the zone, prompting them to sue the governments to seek nullification of their decisions.

Based on previous research, the central government designated an oval-shaped area measuring 19 kilometers in length and 11 km in width stretching northwest of the hypocenter of the atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, as the zone where black rain fell for an hour or longer.

- Japan Times