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May 30, 2017

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Hiroshima marks anniversary of atomic bombing

HIROSHIMA, Japan--Tens of thousands of people gathered for peace ceremonies in Hiroshima on Wednesday, marking the 69th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city, as anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Japan.

Bells tolled as aging survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates observed a moment of silence in the rain at 8:15 a.m. local time (2315 GMT), when the detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.

People attending Wednesday's ceremony placed flowers in front of the cenotaph at Peace Memorial Park in downtown Hiroshima.

The city's mayor Kazumi Matsui recalled the grim memories of one survivor at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.

The survivor, a 15-year-old pupil at the time, remembered hearing "voices from the brink of death" begging for "water, please."

"The pleas were from younger students," the mayor said, recounting the survivor's grisly description of "their badly burned, grotesquely swollen faces, eyebrows and eyelashes singed off, school uniforms in ragged tatters."

Many survivors — known in Japan as "hibakusha" — feel profound guilt over living through the attack, Matsui said.

But "people who rarely talked about the past because of their ghastly experiences are now, in old age, starting to open up," he added.

Shigeji Yonekura, a 81-year-old Hiroshima survivor, told AFP: "It's sad to see my fellow hibakusha die year after year, but I want to keep telling young people about my horrific experience for as long as I live."

An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II. It had killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year.

On Aug. 9, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people.

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