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Last Updated: Friday, 5 August 2005, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Surviving Nagasaki: Akiko Seitelbach
Akiko Seitelbach as a young woman
Akiko Seitelbach gave first aid to the victims
Akiko Seitelbach was 22 years old, and working at Mitsubishi Electrical as a volunteer, when the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki.

On 9 August 1945, I was working in the supply office. I was a little tired, so I got up to stretch my legs and walked over to the end of the office where there was a big window looking over Nagasaki harbour.

The scenery was beautiful, the sun was shining brightly and I was looking across the bay.

Then suddenly I saw this flash of light, above the railway station, and my boss yelled at me: 'Get away from the window!'

So I turned and tried to walk back to my desk. Then suddenly the building was hit with such force it was like a small boat in a storm - it shook.

The doctor pointed out one man... his body was covered in burns. So I put some ointment on him, but I thought 'This isn't going to help'

And I threw myself face down on the floor to cover my head with my hands, something we were trained to do.

A shockwave came and the air was filled with acrid dust. The building kept shaking, and things were falling on my body and head. My mother had died the year before and I prayed to her.

Then after a while it stopped, so I got up and looked around. The air was still filled with yellow dust and I ran downstairs towards the air raid shelter.

I ran through the factory. I felt something was very wrong - it was so bright. When I got to the shelter it was dark, as the electricity had gone, but I could feel people moving around.

My boss came and found me and said: 'Oh you are safe.' He said: 'They are calling for you - you volunteered to do first aid.'

Something was coming toward me. It was a man but he didn't look like a man

So I said, 'Oh heavens I did!' I got up and went to the other end of the air raid shelter. There was a doctor, and although he was wounded, he was also trying to help other people.

People were sort of dazed, their clothes torn to shreds, their bodies burned and just standing there silently.

The doctor pointed out one man. All his clothes were torn and his body was covered in burns. He was shivering and said: 'I'm cold, I'm cold'. So I put some ointment on him, but I thought: 'This isn't going to help.'

Then the doctor said: 'Go and stay with that young boy on the makeshift bed.'

They used high school kids as volunteers in the factories. He must have been about 15. He had a big gash on his neck. He opened his eyes and said: 'You know I'm going to die.'

I said: 'Your mother's coming, you're not going to die.' He said: 'Can't you hear my blood dripping? I know I'm going to die.' Then he was gone.

Altered landscape

Later on, at about 5pm, my boss suggested we try to get home. I didn't know it had been an atomic explosion.

We walked out of the shelter, passed the destruction and onto the road in front of our building. I knew something was very wrong, something terrible had happened.

Akiko Seitelbach today
Akiko Seitelbach now lives in New Jersey
I looked out across the bay, and Nagasaki was a big bonfire, just burning, and then I thought about Hiroshima.

I thought: 'Maybe it's one of the new bombs.' But I didn't have any feelings about that. When you're shocked you don't feel anything. I wasn't even scared.

We couldn't get our bearings because all the familiar landmarks had disappeared. And when we ran through the roads between houses still burning on both sides, the scorching heat nearly overwhelmed us.

I didn't see any living creatures or green plants. We ran and ran through these empty spaces.

Then suddenly I stopped.

Something was coming toward me. It was a man but he didn't look like a man. He had no hair, his face was swollen to about twice the normal size, and loose skin hung down from his arms and legs like seaweed.

He was walking towards me and I was so scared I tried to avoid him.

I heard him saying 'Water, water' as he passed me. So I turned around to go to him but he had collapsed, dead.

The next day we tried to catch a train north, but train after train was filled with burns victims and wounded.

And they told us about their experiences - the blast and the incinerating heat, and the black rain that fell from the sky. It was weird and sort of supernatural.

This interview is from the series 'August 1945', from 3-14 August on BBC Radio 4, at 8.55 BST Mondays-Saturday, and at 9.55 BST on Sunday.


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