What if the Hiroshima bomb was dropped on Manila?

Yesterday the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The nuclear bomb, dubbed “Little Boy” packed an energy equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. Some 90,000 to 166,000 people were killed. It ushered in the age of nuclear warfare and to date have been the only time when such devastating weapons were used in actual combat. A few days later, on August 9, 1945 a second atomic bomb, “Fat Man” was dropped in Nagasaki killing almost 80,000 people. While it was commonly believed that the atom bombs led to Japan’s surrender and ended World Ward 2, that notion has been debated and challenged.

The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been seared in the collective memory of mankind, it haunts all of us as the next global conflict would be fought with nuclear weapons and the only thing that we know for sure is that the damage caused and the lives that will be lost would reach unimaginably horrific scales.

And I can’t help but ask the question: “What if the a nuclear bomb were dropped on Manila?” Thankfully, Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology has come up with Nukemap, an app that lets you plot the area damage of a nuclear bomb over a city of your choice on Google maps.

For a simulation of a nuclear bomb hitting Manila, I chose Malacanan Palace as the hypocenter1 of the blast area for two things: killing the President would lead to a collapse of the government and second, it sits in the middle of heavily a populated area causing as much civilian casualty as possible:

A simulation showing the areas hit if a nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima was dropped on Manila.
A simulation showing the areas hit if a nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima was dropped on Manila.

The parameters of this simulation are as follows:
The nuclear bomb is the same one as “Little Boy” which was dropped on Hiroshima, it has a yield of 15 kT or 15,000 tons of TNT exploding in mid air at an altitude of 600m
Estimated fatalities: 386,620
Estimated injuries: 812,950

Effects of Airblast
The effects of an airblast from a nuclear bomb dropped on Manila

Aside from Malacanan Palace being wiped off the map, LRT lines 1 and 2 would be damaged as well. Most universities and colleges in the U-Belt area would also be hit. The bottom line is, Manila as ‘the gates of hell’ would take on a whole new meaning, literally. How would the remaining government officials respond? How would our allies respond? Maybe this is something we should also hold a metro-wide drill for. We’ve been preparing for natural disasters like typhoons, floods and earthquakes for some years now. Are we prepared for man-made catastrophes?

As to the question of who would drop a nuke on Manila, I leave that for another discussion at another time. For now, let’s continue to work towards a nuclear weapons-free world, it’s the rightful thing to do, specially for those who lost their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago.

  1. The term hypocenter also refers to the point on the Earth’s surface directly below an atmospheric explosion[back]

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