The Japanese city of Nagasaki yesterday commemorated the 75th anniversary of the detonation of a US atomic bomb, with its mayor and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warning against a nuclear arms race.
Nagasaki became an atomic inferno three days after Hiroshima — twin nuclear attacks that rang in the nuclear age and gave Japan the bleak distinction of being the only country to be struck by atomic weapons.
Survivors, their relatives and a handful of foreign dignitaries attended a remembrance ceremony in Nagasaki where they called for world peace.
Participants offered a silent prayer at 11:02am, the time the second and last nuclear weapon used in wartime was dropped over the city.
“The true horror of nuclear weapons has not yet been adequately conveyed to the world at large” despite decades of effort by survivors telling of their “hellish experience,” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said in a speech afterward.
“If, as with the novel coronavirus — which we did not fear until it began to spread among our immediate surroundings — humanity does not become aware of the threat of nuclear weapons until they are used again, we will find ourselves in an irrevocable predicament,” he said.
Guterres, in a message read by UN Undersecretary Izumi Nakamitsu, warned that “the prospect of nuclear weapons being used intentionally, by accident or miscalculation, is dangerously high.”
“The historic progress in nuclear disarmament is in jeopardy... This alarming trend must be reversed,” he said.
The number of participants in this year’s ceremony was reduced to roughly one-tenth the figure in previous years due to COVID-19 fears, with proceedings broadcast live online in Japanese and English.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refreshed his pledge that Japan would lead “the international community’s efforts towards the realization of a nuclear-free world.”
Terumi Tanaka, 88, who was 13 and at his hillside home when the bomb hit Nagasaki, remembers the moment everything went white with a flash of light, and the aftermath.
“I saw many people with terrible burns and wounds evacuating ... people who were already dead in a primary school-turned shelter,” Tanaka told reporters in a recent interview, saying his two aunts died.
Atomic bomb survivors “believe that the world must abandon nuclear arms because we never want younger generations to experience the same thing,” he said.
“I’m determined to keep appealing [to the world] that Nagasaki must be the last atomic bomb-hit city,” survivor Shigemi Fukahori, 89, said at the ceremony. “I hope young people will receive this baton of peace and keep running.”
The US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killing about140,000 people, including those who survived the explosion, but died soon after from radiation exposure.
It dropped a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki three days later, killing 74,000 people.
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