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Atomic Wounds

Source: New Straits Times (Leisure Times), 4 August 1988
By: Fifi Lim

Survivor Haji Razak Recalls The Horror Of It All

When the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945, Haji Abdul Razak Abdul Hamid was just a 19-year-old preparing for his lesson at the Hiroshima University.

The youth blacked out. When he came to a few minutes later, he saw that everything was either razed or in the process of being consumed by a raging fire.

The University was 1.5 kilometre from the impact centre. At the time of the bombing, there were two other Malaysians with him. He was the only one who survived, escaping with minor head injuries.

Now, 43 years later, Haji Abdul Razak still cannot forget the horrible, aftermath of the bomb and is a fierce advocate against nuclear war.

Indeed, he is against all wars since nothing is gained from such senseless violence but sufferings, destruction and deaths.

To this end, Haji Abdul Razak will be giving a short talk at the British Council Hall on August 9. This talk is one of the highlights of the activities organised by the Malaysian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (MPPNW) to commermorate the bombing of Hiroshima.

Prior to this talk, a film, titled Hiroshima and Nagasaki - The Harvest of a Nuclear War, will be screened.

It is hoped that Haji Abdul Razak's experiences will further enlighten the public to the tragedy if a war in general and the threat of nuclear war in particular.

Interviewed in his office at Wisma Belia, Kuala Lumpur, last week, Haji Abdul Razak, a co-ordinator and lecturer of the Japanese language course at the Pusat Pendidikan Persediaan, Institut Teknologi Mara, explained that he wants everyone to know about Hiroshima. That's why he has kept a record of his memory of the incident upon his return to Malaysia after the war.

"Only by remembering the bitter lesson of that first atomic bomb can we hope to lead people back to the path of God and his message of peace and love among all people," he declared.

In line with this, he asked one of his students, Othman Puteh, to help him write a book based on materials he remembered and collected on Hiroshima. The book Debu Hiroshima (Ashes of Hiroshima), was published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka last year.

More recently, he agreed to partake in NHK Television's project to do a documentary film focusing on the survivors of Hiroshima.

The film captures the life of Haji Abdul Razak today and through him, other survivors are brought into the picture. Together, flashbacks of the terrible memories that have bound them together since are shown.

Shot over two weeks on location in Malaysia and in Hiroshima, the film, titled Japan In My Mind (Heart), will be screened throughout Japan on Aug 6.

On how he happened to be in Japan during the Second World War, Penang-born Haji Abdul Razak explained: "When the Japanese arrived in 1941, I was just 16 and was sent to the Japanese college in Malacca from 1942 to 1943."

"At the end of his course, 15 students were short-listed for further studies in Japan. Out of these, only four were chosen. I was one of the four."

Haji Abdul Razak had chosen to do a degree in Education and hence, in 1943, left for the International Student Institute in Tokyo for a year of pre-U studies. Following that, he left for Hiroshima University where he was supposed to stay four years. Together with him were two other Malaysian students, Nik Yusof of Kelantan and Syed Omar Al Sagoff, of Johore. With the bombing, his plans of further education grounded to a halt.

"Hiroshima," said Haji Abdul Razak, "was rarely visited by enemy planes. But that day, the sirens went and quickly, my course mate Pengiran Yusof from Brunei and my professor ran to the air-raid shelter nearby."

Soon after, all-clear sirens went and the trio hurried back to the classroom anxious to continue with their interrupted schedule. Next thing Haji Abdul Razak noticed was a blinding flash of lighting rushing across the width of the class room windows followed by a thunderous noise.

"After that, I remembered nothing," he said. When he regained consciousness, he found himself buried under heaps of dust and splinters of what was once their music building. Shortly after, Yusof and his professor also crawled out.

Though in shock, the professor told his students to return to the dormitory to check on the students there. When the duo got out of the ruins, they could hardly believe their eyes.

"Everything was flattened," Haji Abdul Razak recalled. "It was as if a thousand hurricanes had just swept across the nation. I wondered then if that was the end of the world."

The frightened students had problem looking for directions to their dormitory since all landmarks were wiped out. Eventually, survivors began to crawl out from various places. Groans, screams of pain and cries for help came from all over corners. Corpses were everywhere.

"Hiroshima was hell-on-earth," was how Haji Abdul Razak described the scene.

Finally, he and Yusof got to a place where they thought their hostel one stood.

Calling out for the lady-in-charge, Obasan, they heard a weak reply. Digging in the direction of the voice, they were surprised to find that the lady they rescued was not Obasan but Miss Sumida, the working at the neighbouring company.

When they finally pulled Sumida out of the rubbles, they got another shock. Her eyes were covered in blood, caused by her glasses being smashed into them.

But, as Haji Abdul Razak was soon to find out, more terrifying scenes were about to unfold. As those who were not too badly hurt rally to help other survivors, a roaring flame erupted "suddenly and out of nowhere."

The fire engulfed houses on the bank of the Motoyasu river across our dormitory and was racing across the bridge towards us. The survivors panicked and began to look for places to hide.

"But there were not many such places left and many helplessly lined the bank of the swift-flowing river awaiting their fiery deaths.

"I can never forget all the bodies lining the bank of the river. I can still see the charred bodies, falling one by one into the river," he said.

Asked how he managed to survive under the circumstances, he replied, "Ah ... in Islam, we say Allah saved us."

Indeed, Haji Abdul Razak and his friend seemed destined for a fiery end too as the wind shifted and pushed the fire towards them.

"Somehow, there was a raft near the river bank and we quickly took Miss Sumida and a number of injured Japanese onto the raft," he recounted.

"Even then, the fire came at us and we all had to jump into the river to stay alive. I held tight to a piece of wood, keeping myself immersed and coming up for a quick gasp of air only when I couldn't stand it anymore."

After what seemed like an eternity, the fire moved away and they climbed back onto the raft. By that time, their number had reduced drastically but, luckily, Sumida was still with them.

Night brought another horror. Throughout, they heard cries of pain and pleas for water.

Yusof and I brought some water to some of these survivors but they died almost as soon as they drank. This frightened us an we began to advise the rest against drinking the water.

"But the choice was really limited. They either drink and die or face death due to extreme thirst. It was horrible."

Nonetheless, he and his friend were resolute in not giving anybody water since they didn't want to be "peddlars of death."

Meanwhile, all around them, they could see the effects of the bomb's radiation. Skins had peeled off the bodies of many survivors and dangled at their finger tips. Others suffered bloated faces and great loss of hair.

Those directly, affected by the bomb was completed burnt except, perhaps, for the belts around their waists or watches on their wrist. Some, Haji Abdul Razak recalled, died "frozen like black ice."

Haji Abdul Razak and the other survivors stayed under the open skies waiting for 10 days before they were brought back to Tokyo for medical treatment.

For a month after that he received a regular injection to prevent his white blood cell level from dropping. That aside, he has miraculously avoided the worst effects of the atomic bomb.

Until today, however, this father of three and grandfather of seven, still goes for regular medical check-ups. Happilly, he has continued to receive a clean bill of health.

The other two Malaysians were not so lucky, Nik Yusof survived the bombing but was consumed by the fire that followed.

Likewise, Syed Omar survived the bombing but two weeks later he developed a high fever and died in a hospital in Kyoto on Sept. 3, 1945, from the effects of radiation. Both were buried in Japan.

It is Haji Abdul Razak's hope that our Government would make some arrangements to see that the two graves are attended to each 6 Aug.

"The two of them have graves, thanks to the generosity of the Japanese. But I think it is time we remember our own dead... at least once a year," he said.

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