08/09/2006, 00.00
JAPAN

Nagasaki: 61 years after the bomb

 The anniversary comes amid international tension due to the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. The mayor criticized the mighty powers for "not making concrete efforts to rein in the arms race". A special mass was celebrated in Urakami, the largest cathedral in Asia before the bomb.

Nagasaki (AsiaNews) – The mayor of Nagasaki criticized Iran and North Korea for their nuclear programmes but also hit out at the nuclear powers, starting with the United States, for failing to stop proliferation. Today, the Japanese city of Nagasaki marks 61 years since the atomic bomb was dropped on it, bringing World War II to an end.

At 11.02 (local time), the precise moment of the blast, more than 4,500 people, from the Premier, Junichiro Koizumi, to survivors to youth of new generations, stood in silence to pray. At dawn, as per tradition, the Catholic community gathered in the Cathedral of Urakami on the suburbs, to participate in a special mass.

This year, the anniversaries of Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki came as North Korea and Iran made renewed threats to develop nuclear programmes.

In his address, the first citizen, Itcho Ito, launched a heartfelt appeal to the international community to take concrete steps to stop proliferation.

 "What is the human race doing?" he said. "The world's nuclear non-proliferation regime faces the risk of collapsing." He pointed a finger against "Pakistan which announced its possession of nuclear arms, Israel which is widely considered to possess them". He continued: "Sixty-one years since the bombing, the city of Nagasaki is filled with anger and frustration. The nuclear powers are not making sincere efforts for nuclear arms reduction."

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said "Japan, the only country that has suffered atomic bombings in human history, has the responsibility to keep telling the international community about its experience."

On 9 August 1945, the plutonium bomb codenamed "Fat Man" instantly killed more than 70,000 people in Nagasaki, home to a large Christian community. At 11.02, there were 30 people present in Urakami Cathedral as well as two priests hearing confessions. All were killed and the building was burned by the intensity of heat given off by the bomb. Out of 12,000 Catholics in the area, 8,500 were killed. By the end of the year, the death toll had risen by 60,000. According to the city's estimates, the total number of people who died as a result of the bomb's radiation is now 140,144. Every year, a thousand or so are added.

In Urakami, the largest cathedral in Asia at the time, a sign of hope and a call to peace remains. Last year, in a chapel built for the purpose, the so-called "bombed Madonna" was exposed to the faithful. This is the head of a wooden statue which survived the atomic attack and which still bears the scars of its radiation. The head was recovered from among the debris but no trace of the body was ever found.

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