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1995: Japan mourns Hiroshima anniversary

Up to 50,000 people have attended a memorial service in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on the 50th anniversary of the first atomic bombing.

The service took place in the Hiroshima Peace Park built directly below the point where the bomb exploded.

At precisely 0815 - a half-century to the minute after the bomb was dropped over the city - bells were rung and sirens wailed before a minute's silence was observed.

During the service attended by the Japanese Prime Minister and members of his cabinet, the city's mayor, Takashi Hiraoka, warned against the dangers of nuclear weapons.

"Nuclear weapons offer no security to the nations that possess them.

"As long as nuclear weapons exist, it is inevitable that some country, at some point, will experience the horror that Hiroshima and Nagasaki already know," Mr Hiraoka said.

In a conciliatory gesture Mr Hiraoka apologised for what he called the "unbearable suffering" that Japanese colonialism and brutality inflicted during the Second World War.

In an annual ritual the list of people killed by the bomb and its after-effects was updated.

This year the names of more than 5,000 people, mostly victims of radiation-caused leukaemia bring the total of Hiroshima's dead to more than 192,000.

For the first time Chinese and Korean survivors - many of who were being used as forced labour at the time of the blast - were invited to the official memorial service.

There were no representatives of the then Western Allied powers - who had ordered the bombing of Hiroshima, and three days later Nagasaki.

But a large contingent of Western mourners attended to show their solidarity against nuclear weapons.

In Context
About 140,0000 of Hiroshima's 300,000 residents died from the bombing, including those who died from radiation-linked illnesses.

Everybody and everything within 500 yards of where the bomb fell was vaporised.

Another atomic bomb dropped three days later over the Japanese city of Nagasaki killed at least 74,000 people by the end of year.

The bombings brought about an abrupt end to the war in Asia - but critics said Japan had already been on the brink of surrender.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt soon after the war and have become important industrial centres.


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