Tens of thousands of people have gathered for peace ceremonies in Hiroshima marking the 69th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the city, as anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Japan.
Bells tolled as ageing survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates observed a moment of silence in the rain at the exact time the atomic bomb was dropped from the US bomber Enola Gay.
The detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.
At the ceremony in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima a list of nearly 300,000 victims were placed inside a monument.
Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui called on nuclear armed nations to disarm and urged Japan to continue as a nation of peace.
He urged people to listen to the voices of survivors as he delivered a speech at the ceremony also attended by prime minister Shinzo Abe, US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and representatives from 67 countries..
Anti-nuclear sentiment flared in Japan after the 2011 earthquake-sparked tsunami left some 19,000 dead or missing and knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
None of those deaths were directly attributed to the nuclear crisis. But the reactor meltdowns spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to leave their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Despite strong public opposition, Japan’s nuclear watchdog last month said that two atomic reactors were safe enough to switch back on.
The decision marked a big step towards restarting the country’s nuclear plants, which were shut after the disaster, and sparked accusations that the regulator was a puppet of the powerful atomic industry.
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