Around 300 indigenous people were living on Christmas Island, now known as Kiritimati, during British nuclear tests in the late 1950s.
Islanders were evacuated from their villages and taken aboard British navy ships during the explosions. They were entertained below decks and later invited on deck to view the atomic cloud.
A group of former Christmas Island residents petitioned the European parliament, claiming they were exposed to nuclear radiation that caused permanent health damage. Claimant Suitupe Kirotomi says her face was burned and her hair fell out after being exposed to rain from the nuclear cloud.
British and American government teams surveyed the island five times from 1964 to 1998, finding measurable radioactivity at some of the old military sites. In 2004 the Ministry of Defense conducted a clean up of military waste, which was shipped out to the UK.
No studies have been done on the impacts of nuclear testing or radiation exposure on the islanders’ health.
FORTY-eight years ago Suitupe Kirotomi was caught in a shower of rain. Standing on the deck of a British naval ship in the middle of the Pacific, she remembers the wetness on her face.
This place is the bomb
Something wild is happening on Christmas Island, once ground zero for nuclear test explosions.
British nuclear test veterans set up aid link with Kiribati school
Radio New Zealand International