In the poem A Doctors Journal entry for august 6 1945 by Vikram Seth, the narrator saw some people with their ‘arms stretched straight out’. Why were they so?
It was because the friction on the burns caused the people so much pain that they were afraid to chafe (rub) flesh against flesh.
The narrator in the poem has mentioned that while describing the after-effects of the atomic explosion of Hiroshima. So, it might be a kind of deformity that some people received due to the explosion.
Edit: I think Azazle’s answer is more correct here.
The people stretched their arms because they feared their burned skin rubbing against the flesh would cause pain.