12/17/2019, 13.30
JAPAN
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Hiroshima resident petition authorities not to tear down buildings that survived the atomic bomb

As of 2018, only 85 buildings built before the bomb still stand within five kilometres of ground zero. The local Prefecture wants to demolish two of the four buildings of a former depot. Citing their historical value, petitioners propose to use them as lecture halls or art studios.

Hiroshima (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Almost 15,000 residents of Hiroshima, southern Japan, signed a petition to stop the demolition of two buildings dating back to the early 20th century that survived the 1945 atomic bombing (picture 1).

Petitioners want to preserve the memory of what happened as a warning against the danger of atomic weapons. A committee of the Hiroshima Prefecture said on 4 December that by fiscal 2022 two out of the three prefecture-owned buildings of the former Hiroshima Army Clothing Depot should be torn down.

Both buildings were built in 1913 to produce military garments (clothing and shoes), and are located about 2.7 kilometres from the hypocentre of the attack.

According to the Prefecture, they are among the largest structures left standing after the blast. However, two years ago a routine seismic-resistance inspection found that they would not withstand a strong earthquake.

The buildings, constructed of reinforced concrete with red brick exteriors, have some hinged windows believed to have been deformed in the bomb blast. A fourth building of the army clothing depot nearby is state-owned.

Whilst the Prefecture wants to preserve the third of the three buildings it owns, with its walls and roof expected to be reinforced and repaired, some Hiroshima residents have not given up hope of preserving all three in order to use them as lecture halls or art studios, citing their historical value.

Preserving and strengthening all three buildings owned by the local government would cost 8.4 billion yen (US million), petitioners estimate. By contrast, the Prefecture proposes to demolish two of the buildings and strengthen the remaining one, at a lower estimated cost of between 1.4 and 3.1 billion yen.

Iwao Nakanishi, 89, is a hibakusha, a bomb survivor. He was in one of the buildings when the city was bombed. He is now the head of a local group demanding the preservation of the buildings.

"Considering the historical significance of telling the tragedy to the future generation, we can no way accept the demolition," he said. "We strongly oppose it." He added that the buildings could be used to promote "the abolition of nuclear weapons".

In recent years, the buildings have not been used – although visits were possible via the local authority. One of the visitors, a 69-year-old said “These are valuable buildings that are telling us the horror of the atomic bomb.”

About 140,000 people were killed by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the US Air Force on 6 August 1945, followed by another 75,000 who died three days later in Nagasaki.

The attack flattened most of Hiroshima, and – as of last year – only 85 buildings built before the bomb remained within five kilometres of ground zero.

The visit to the two cities wounded by the atomic bomb was central to Pope Francis’ recent apostolic visit of to Japan on 23-26 November 2018.

In Nagasaki, the pontiff issued his Message on nuclear weapons, which he repeated in Hiroshima, next to the arch that marks the point where the bomb dropped. In the darkness of the evening, next to a group of 20 survivors, the pontiff said: “Never again war, never again the clash of arms, never again so much suffering!”

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