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Postman who survived Nagasaki A-bomb dies at 88

The Nagasaki survivor whose burned back became a symbol of the suffering of the 1945 atomic bomb victims, has died of cancer aged 88.

Sumiteru Taniguchi, then 16, had been delivering mail on his newspaper route when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on August 9, 1945.

Taniguchi survived, but suffered terrible burns on his back and arms, and later became a prominent nuclear disarmament campaigner. 

Survivor: Sumiteru Taniguchi, pictured showing a photo of himself taken in 1946, six months after the bomb in Nagasaki, died of cancer Wednesday aged 88

In January 1946, a U.S. Marine photographer visited a hospital for survivor, and took a photograph of him lying on his stomach, his back exposed.

The photograph has since been used for decades to depict the injuries suffered by those who survived Nagasaki. 

Taniguchi, once considered a front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize, died of cancer at a hospital in the southwestern Japanese city on Wednesday. 

Speaking at a commemoration ceremony in 2015, he described how he had been riding his bicycle about one 1.1 miles from the epicentre of the blast on the morning of August 9, 1945.

‘All of a sudden, after seeing a rainbow-like light from the back, I was blown by a powerful blast and smashed to the ground.

Mr Taniguchi, a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, shows his back with scars of burns from the atomic bomb explosion

Mr Taniguchi, a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, shows his back with scars of burns from the atomic bomb explosion

‘When I woke up, the skin of my left arm from the shoulder to the tip of my fingers was trailing like a rag. 

‘I put my hand to my back and found my clothing was gone, and there was slimy, burnt skin all over my hand.

‘Bodies burned black, voices calling for help from collapsed buildings, people with flesh falling off and their guts falling out… This place became a sea of fire. It was hell.’

He became one of the few early faces of the bombing aftermath when US military pictures of him recovering in hospital, his entire back an agonising slab of melted flesh, were beamed around the world.

Sumiteru Taniguchi (R) with the then-United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010

Sumiteru Taniguchi (R) with the then-United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2010

Taniguchi, who spent about three-and-a-half years in hospital after the blast, went on to campaign for nuclear disarmament for his entire adult life, making dozens of speeches both in Japan and overseas about his experience.

‘I fear that people, especially the younger generations, are beginning to lose interest,’ he said in a 2003 interview with AFP.

‘I want the younger generations to remember that nuclear weapons will never save humanity. It is an illusion to believe that the nuclear umbrella will protect us.’

The US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, killing around 140,000 people. 

The toll includes those who survived the explosion itself but died soon after from severe radiation exposure.

Three days later the US dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing some 74,000 people. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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