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article imageBikini nuclear refugees seek U.S. aid to leave Marshall Islands

By AFP     Aug 7, 2015 in World

Nearly 70 years after they were uprooted to make way for United States' nuclear tests, Bikini Islanders have approved two new resolutions seeking Washington's aid to relocate again -- including one citing the "psychological toll" of leaving their atoll.

For decades, Bikini islanders have struggled to survive on Kili, an inhospitable and isolated island with no lagoon for fishing or calm anchorage for boats.

Their hardship has worsened in the past four years with ocean water repeatedly flooding the land, and an airport runway that turns to mud when it rains.

It has reached an intolerable stage for the Bikini Council, which has now requested Washington's assistance with relocating the people who have lived in exile since the start of the nuclear testing at Bikini atoll in 1946.

The United States tested 24 nuclear weapons at Bikini, including its largest hydrogen bomb, Bravo, in 1954.

"We may have no option but to relocate," Bikini Mayor Nishma Jamore said as he outlined the future for the 800 residents on the island.

"Climate change is real. We are feeling and experiencing it. In the future we will have no choice (but to relocate)."

Jamore was speaking Thursday after the Bikini Council approved two resolutions seeking to have the Resettlement Trust Fund for Bikini islanders, established by Washington in 1982, used for relocation outside of the Marshall Islands.

Most of the Bikini people want to move to the United States because of the deteriorating conditions, but the trust fund specifically restricts resettlement spending to the Marshall Islands.

One resolution noted that since the resettlement to Kili in 1948, the change from an atoll environment to an island with no lagoon "continues to take a severe psychological toll on the people".

Added to the problem of subsistence is the impact of rising sea levels on Kili and Ejit Islands, also home to people relocated from Bikini Atoll, which are "covered by high waves at least five times in the last four years, resulting in contamination of all wells on both islands", the resolution said.

The second resolution says conditions on Kili "are similar to those facing the people of Bikini on Rogerik in 1946, of being placed on an island that cannot sustain the population".

The people of Bikini spent two years on Rogerik before being moved to Kili in 1948 because they were starving.

The Bikinians believe the US government remains morally responsible for their welfare, claiming their home island has not been properly cleaned and repaired since the nuclear tests.

"They really need to clean up Bikini," councillor Lani Kramer said. "I believe even if we don't go back they should clean it up no matter what."

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