Published on Sunday, August 6, 2006 by the Agence France Presse
Hiroshima Commemorates 61st Anniversary of US Atomic Attack
The Japanese city of Hiroshima marked the 61st anniversary of the world's first atomic attack on Sunday as its mayor renewed calls for a nuclear-free world and further support for aging survivors.
Some 45,000 people recited silent prayers at 8:15 am (2315 GMT), the exact moment in 1945 when a single US bomb killed more than 140,000 people and fatally injured tens of thousands of others with radiation or horrific burns.
Government officials and foreign guests from a record 35 countries laid wreaths before a memorial to the dead against the backdrop of the famous A-bomb dome, a former exhibition hall burned to a skeleton by the bomb's heat.
"Sixty-one years later, the number of nations enamored of evil and enslaved by nuclear weapons is increasing," Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said in a speech.
Akiba said his city and atomic bomb survivors have long sought the abolition of nuclear weapons. "Yet, the world's political leaders continue to ignore these voices," he said.
"I call on the Japanese government to ... forcefully insist that the nuclear-weapon states negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament," Akiba said.
The 61st anniversary of the world's first nuclear attacks comes amid growing tension in the region with North Korea posing a missile threat and sticking to its nuclear ambitions.
News reports said last week Pyongyang had been building new underground missile bases along its east coast, targeting Japan and US military facilities in Japan.
The communist nation set off new alarm bells in the region with its July 5 test-firing of seven ballistic missiles which splashed in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). In 1998, it test-launched a missile over Japan.
In his speech, Akiba also called for additional measures to support aging survivors of the atomic bomb.
"I further request more generous, people-oriented assistance appropriate to the actual situation of the aging hibakusha," he said using the Japanese word for victims of nuclear bombings.
On Friday, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing won a victory with a court ruling that the Japanese government was too inflexible in determining who was eligible for benefits.
The Hiroshima District Court said that 41 plaintiffs, aged from 62 to 94, deserved to be recognized as survivors, which would pave the way for them to receive Japan's generous benefits for their illnesses.
© 2006 AFP