The 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes when the risk of the use of nuclear weapons has risen to levels not seen since the Cold War era, Red Cross societies warned on Tuesday.

Seventy-five years ago, on Aug. 6, 1945, a US B-29 warplane released a terrifying new weapon on the southwestern Japanese city of Hiroshima.

The nuclear bomb wiped out Hiroshima, instantly killing an estimated 70,000 people and leaving tens of thousands more suffering horrific injuries.

Three days later, on Aug. 9, a second nuclear bomb devastated another Japanese city, Nagasaki, immediately killing 39,000 people.

By 1950, an estimated 340,000 people had died because of the bombs’ effects, including from illnesses caused by exposure to ionizing radiation, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The ICRC and the Japanese Red Cross Society say unimaginable suffering and devastation followed, as medical and humanitarian personnel attempted, in near-impossible conditions, to assist the dying and injured.

“The horror of a nuclear detonation may feel like distant history. But today the risk of nuclear weapons being used again is high,” said ICRC president Peter Maurer.

“Treaties to reduce nuclear arsenals and risks of proliferation are being abandoned, new types of nuclear weapons are being produced, and serious threats are being made.

“That’s an arms race, and it’s frightening.”

Maurer said all countries must be pushed to ban nuclear weapons and to induce nuclear weapons-states to negotiate, in good faith, steps towards their elimination.

Calling attention

“Not since the end of the Cold War has it been more urgent to call attention to catastrophic consequences and fundamental inhumanity of nuclear weapons.,” said Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC

“We must signal clearly and unambiguously that their use, under any circumstances, would be unacceptable in humanitarian, moral, and legal terms.”

He said that the international community would not be able to help all those in need after a nuclear blast.

“Widespread radiation sickness, a decline in food production, and the tremendous scale of destruction and contamination would make any meaningful humanitarian response insufficient.”

The ICRC said that providing broad support for a nuclear-free world, 122 states in July 2017 adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The treaty will become legally binding for countries that ratify it after 50 do so, with 40 having done so.

“The treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use, and the threat of nuclear weapons,” the ICRC said.

For nuclear-armed states that join the treaty, it provides a time-bound framework for the verified elimination of their nuclear weapons program, it added.

At the start of 2020, nine countries — the US, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea — possessed approximately 13,400 nuclear weapons, of which 3,720 were deployed with operational forces, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says in its 2020 yearbook.

South Africa is the only country to have ceded its atomic weaponry.

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