Hiroshima marks 75 years since atomic bombing

Updated 07 Aug 2020

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Hiroshima (Japan): Visitors watch a screen (back centre) displaying virtual lanterns as paper lanterns are placed to mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing, at a park on Thursday. The coronavirus pandemic forced the government to scale back ceremonies to commemorate the victims.—AFP
Hiroshima (Japan): Visitors watch a screen (back centre) displaying virtual lanterns as paper lanterns are placed to mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing, at a park on Thursday. The coronavirus pandemic forced the government to scale back ceremonies to commemorate the victims.—AFP

TOKYO: Bells tolled in Hiroshima on Thursday for the 75th anniversary of the world’s first atomic bombing, with ceremonies downsized due to the coronavirus and the city’s mayor urging nations to reject selfish nationalism and unite to fight all threats.

Though thousands usually pack the Peace Park in the centre of the Japanese city to pray, sing and offer paper cranes as a symbol of peace, entrance was sharply limited and only survivors and their families could attend the memorial ceremony.

The city said the significance of the anniversary of the bombing that killed 140,000 people before the end of 1945 had prompted its decision to hold the ceremony despite the spread of the virus, but taking strict precautions.

“On Aug 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb destroyed our city. Rumour at the time had it that ‘Nothing will grow here for 75 years’,” said mayor Kazumi Matsui.

“And yet, Hiroshima recovered, becoming a symbol of peace.”

At 8.15am on Aug 6, 1945, US B-29 warplane Enola Gay dropped a bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” and obliterated the city with an estimated population of 350,000, where thousands more died later from injuries and radiation-related illnesses.

On Thursday, as cicadas shrilled in the heavy summer heat and the Peace Bell sounded, the crowd stood to observe a moment of silence at the exact time the bomb exploded.

“When the 1918 flu pandemic attacked a century ago, it took tens of millions of lives and terrorised the world because nations fighting World War I were unable to meet the threat together,” Matsui added.

“A subsequent upsurge in nationalism led to World War Two and the atomic bombings. We must never allow this painful past to repeat itself.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2020