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Marshall Islands to fight for more nuclear tests compo

Published: 6:21PM Monday September 16, 2013 Source: ONE News

The Marshall Islands is vowing to keep fighting for more compensation from the United States for 12 years of nuclear testing.

The US conducted 67 atmospheric tests in the 1940s and '50s which are still affecting locals to this day.

ONE News Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, reporting from the capital, Majuro, says time has punished the Marshall Islands people.

A group of women suffering with cancer say they are all still affected by nuclear fallout decades ago.

"Most of us had skin burns as if somebody had showered us with boiled water," said Nerje Joseph, one of the nuclear victims.

The biggest of the 67 nuclear tests, Castle Bravo, was the equivalent to 1000 Hiroshima bombs.

When fallout hit Rongolap Atoll, locals like Rinok Riklow thought it was like shampoo and soap, and she rubbed it into her hair and body.

Generations on, she and hundreds of others have paid the price.

"The original people that were exposed are dying but the next two or three generations are showing the same effects," said Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Phillip Muller.

The US Government has given the Marshall Islands people $US150 million in compensation. But that fund has well and truly been used up. The Marshallese say they deserve much more.

A recent United Nations report agrees, and has called on the US to provide extra compensation to end what it described as a legacy of distrust.

The Nuclear Claims Tribunal says the US should pay more than $2 billion in personal injury and land damage claims to more than 1000 victims. But America is refusing.

"We do consider that the United States has paid full and final compensation for the nuclear tests," said Tom Armbruster, US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands.

"And people that were affected by the 67 tests in the 1950s have access to lifetime healthcare that the United States provides."

The US says it has given $600 million all up in compensation and extra assistance. But that does not wash with locals.

"First, the United States have to live up to their moral responsibility and secondly to make sure our children will be taken care of," said Lemyo Abon, one of the women nuclear victims.

Earlier this month, Pacific leaders, including New Zealand, agreed to support the Marshall Islands as it engages the US for a justified resolution.

The women suffering from cancer in Majuro are now waiting to see if that happens in their lifetime.