, HIROSHIMA August 6- Tens of thousands gathered at a peace memorial park in Hiroshima on Tuesday to mark the 68th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the city, as anti-atomic sentiment runs high in Japan.
The annual ceremony came as radioactive water leaks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have stoked renewed fears about the plant’s precarious state, and underscored broader worries about atomic power following Japan’s 2011 nuclear crisis.
In Hiroshima, ageing survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates observed a moment of silence at 8:15 am (2315 GMT Monday), the time of the detonation which turned the western Japanese city into a nuclear inferno.
“We offer heartfelt consolation to the souls of the atomic bomb victims by pledging to do everything in our power to eliminate the absolute evil of nuclear weapons and achieve a peaceful world,” Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui told the ceremony.
An American B 29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II. It killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year. Three days later, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people.
The Allied powers have long argued that the twin attacks brought a quick end to the war by speeding up Japan’s surrender, preventing millions more casualties from a land invasion planned for later in the year.
Later Tuesday, Japanese officials will be unveiling Tokyo’s biggest naval ship since World War II, as the government moves to beef up Japan’s self defence forces, jangling nerves in neighbouring China and South Korea.
Tokyo said the timing of an annual peace ceremony and the helicopter carrier unveiling was coincidental.
Among the attendees in Hiroshima last year was Clifton Truman Daniel, grandson of former US president Harry Truman, who authorised the bombings. He was the first Truman relative to attend the annual anniversary in Japan.