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Thousands Recall A-bomb, Pray for Peace
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Tens of thousands of people from around the world gathered in Hiroshima yesterday to pray for peace and urge the world to abandon nuclear weapons on the 61st anniversary of the first atomic bombing.

In an annual ritual to mourn the more than 220,000 people who ultimately died from the blast, a crowd including survivors, children and dignitaries gathered at the Peace Memorial Park, near ground zero where the bomb was dropped.

"Radiation, heat, blast and their synergetic effects created a hell on Earth," said Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba.

Lamenting a global trend towards nuclear proliferation, Akiba called for a campaign to free the world of atomic weapons.

"Sixty-one years later, the number of nations enamoured of evil and enslaved by nuclear weapons is increasing," Akiba told the crowd gathered under a blazing summer sun.

The Peace Bell tolled at 8:15 AM the moment the Enola Gay B-29 warplane dropped the bomb on August 6, 1945 as the crowd stood and bowed their heads for a moment of silence.

The United States dropped a second atomic bomb on the southern city of Nagasaki on August 9. Six days later, Japan surrendered.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed fear that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of "non-state actors."

"More than six decades after the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the unspeakable horror of nuclear weapons remain etched in our collective consciousness," Annan said in a message read on his behalf during the 45-minute ceremony.

"The worrying possibility of dangerous nuclear material falling into the hands of non-state actors should energize efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime."

The atomic bomb had killed some 140,000 people by the end of 1945, out of Hiroshima's estimated population of 350,000. Thousands more succumbed to illness and injuries later.

The names of 5,350 people who died recently were added to the list of victims, bringing the total number recognized by the city to 247,787. A few thousand names are added each year.

(China Daily August 7, 2006)


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