(Update 1: adds details throughout, changes headline and lede, minor edits)
By Demofilo Peláez
Hiroshima, Japan, Aug 6 (efe-epa).- The worst predictions after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima indicated that nothing would grow in the area for 75 years. But on Thursday, exactly three-quarters of a century later, commemorations attested to the resilience of this Japanese city.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, made reference to the gloomy forecast in a ceremony marking the nuclear attack on August 6, 1945, three days before another atomic bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki.
“Rumor at the time had it that ‘nothing will grow here for 75 years.’ And yet, Hiroshima recovered, becoming a symbol of peace visited by millions from around the world,” Matsui said of the US attack that killed some 140,000 people.
The event in the Peace Memorial Park served as a call for the government of Japan, the only country that has suffered a nuclear attack, to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) approved three years ago at the United Nations, an initiative in which the Asian country was on the sidelines from the beginning.
Matsui made the call before some 800 people, including authorities such as the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and “hibakusha” (survivors).
“To enhance its role as mediator between the nuclear weapon- and non-nuclear-weapon states, I ask the Japanese government to heed the appeal of the hibakusha that it sign and ratify, and become a party to the TPNW,” said the mayor.
This treaty was passed at the United Nations on July 7, 2017 with the support of 122 member states. For it to enter into force it needs to be ratified by at least 50 countries, and so far only 40 have done so. Japan and other nuclear powers have not signed up.
“Now more than ever, world leaders must strengthen their determination to make this framework function effectively,” Matsui said.
The mayor of Hiroshima spoke after presenting wreaths at a memorial commemorating the tragedy and observing a moment of silence as a bell tolled at the time the bomb was dropped on the city at 8.15 am on Aug. 6, 1945.
In a later message, Abe avoided talking about the TPNW, but said that his country will fight to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.
This year’s ceremony was held with fewer participants than usual to avoid COVID-19 contagion, which also kept away international leaders.
In previous years, the commemorations in Hiroshima ended with the floating of paper lanterns with messages of peace down the Motoyasu River, but the tradition was canceled to avoid contagion.
Near the official ceremony, guarded by a large number of policemen, a demonstration with a few hundred people against war and nuclear weapons, as well a prayer group that chanted mantras for the victims, gathered.
“A long time ago, the grandfathers spoke their story, but many people are dead already. Now many young people forget (about) this day, so this is to never forget,” 39-year-old Tetsuka Kiwamu told EFE while approaching the Peace Memorial Park on his motorcycle.
Kiwamu’s fear that new generations will forget what happened is shared by many survivors of the atomic bomb, who are on average over 83 years old.
“I think (this anniversary) is something very important that we should keep in mind, especially when some governments are talking about war again,” said Gerd Kramer, a 52-year-old former member of the German military who walked for three weeks from Osaka to Hiroshima to raise awareness of the disasters of war.
Kramer said he will also be in Nagasaki on Sunday where the 75-year anniversary of an atomic bomb being dropped on a civilian population for the second time will be marked. EFE-EPA