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Marshall Islands nuclear fallout survivor dies


Helen Thompson
WVoN co-editor

Nuclear fallout survivor and activist Lijon Eknilang, died in a Marshall Islands hospital at the age of 66 last week, following a brief illness.

Eknilang was eight years old in 1954, when the US tested the Bravo hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The bomb spread radioactive ash to Rongelap Island where Eknilang lived, as well as islands within a 100-mile radius of Bikini Atoll.

The islanders immediately sustained radiation burns on their bodies and lost hair, but later in life suffered from more health problems including thyroid tumours, cancers, miscarriages and birth deformities in their offspring.

Eknilang was one of the catalysts for the islanders evacuating Rongelap in 1985 on the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, because of the contamination.

Bunny Mcdiarmid of Greenpeace says:

“Lijon looked forward to a day when she could return to her home island but that return remains elusive and controversial as only 1 of the 60 islands has been ‘cleaned up’ by US funds and many Rongelapese continue to believe it will never be possible to ‘clean’ their islands.”

Eknilang was a staunch advocate for the nuclear test survivors, speaking all over the world about their health problems.

Bill Graham, advocate for a Nuclear Claims Tribunal in Majuro, Marshall Islands, said of Eknilang:

“She was a powerful spokesperson for the Rongelap people and her courage in being willing to share personal health issues helped other women to come out publicly as well.”

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