Residents of the Marshall Islands are marking the 60th anniversary of the US hydrogen bomb test that was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
On March 1, 1954, the United States embarked on a series of nuclear tests in which it vaporized several atolls of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean and exposed thousands in the surrounding area to radioactive fallout.
The worst incident happened when a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb was tested on Bikini Island, the largest in the Bikini Atoll. The H-bomb exploded in the Castle Bravo test.
Devastating US nuclear tests ended in 1958 in the Marshall Islands after 67 tests.
On Saturday, people who remember the day and younger generations gather in the Marshall Islands capital Majuro to commemorate the terrifying incident.
Many exiles still refuse to go back to the zones that were contaminated some sixty years ago.
“I won’t move there,” Evelyn Ralpho-Jeadrik said of her home atoll, Rongelap, which was one of more than 60 in a necklace of coral islands. “I do not believe it’s safe and I don’t want to put my children at risk.”
In 2012, the UN said in a report that the effects were longlasting and called for the US to provide extra compensation to settle claims by nuclear-affected islanders and end a “legacy of distrust.”
In his report to the UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur Calin Georgescu said that “near-irreversible environmental contamination” had led to the loss of livelihoods and many people continued to experience “indefinite displacement.”
Meanwhile, Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak urged Washington to resolve the “unfinished business” of its nuclear testing legacy.
During a ceremony in Majuro marking the 60th anniversary, Loeak said compensation provided by the US “does not provide a fair and just settlement” for the damage.
Loeak said the unfinished business not only affected the four atolls that the US acknowledged as exposed, but also many other islands throughout the country.