- HIROSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - On the eve of the 53rd anniversary of the
world's first atomic bombing, survivors on Wednesday looked back in sorrow
and forward in anger at what they see as a global drift back to nuclear
weapons. Under a scorching sun in Peace Park, centre of the city where
the bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, an always sombre mood was this
week more grim than usual because of Indian and Pakistani nuclear testing
in May. Buddhist monks chanted sutras, families of the dead offered flowers,
incense and thousands of folded paper cranes - symbols of peace in what
was 53 years ago a city of the dead and damned. The wishes were more fervent
than ever with the nuclear genie out of the bottle again.
- ``Why do people just keep on doing stupid
things over and over again?'' said 43-year-old housewife Hideko Yokoo.
``If people in India and Pakistan could just come here and know how things
really were. Because when you think hundreds of people died from the bomb
right where you are walking now, it just freezes you in your tracks.''
India's five nuclear explosions on May 11 and 13, followed by six tests
by neighbouring Pakistan on May 28 and 30, brought economic sanctions on
both countries, but polls have shown many Indians and Pakistanis are proud
of the tests.
- ``If the people in India and Pakistan
knew what really happened here, they couldn't possibly support what their
government has done,'' said bomb survivor Yoshio Yoshioka, 69. The bomb
dropped on Hiroshima killed an estimated 140,000 people by the end of 1945
alone, according to city records, with thousands dying of related illnesses
over the succeeding years. Yoshioka, 16, when the bomb was dropped, was
1.5 kilometres (almost one mile) from ground zero in Peace Park and suffered
severe burns. But he feels he was lucky. His best friend was working with
classmates close to ground zero and was killed. The two had drawn lots
to see who would work on which day and Yoshioka won and worked on August
5. Kei Sugiyama, a 26-year-old nurse, says living in the western Japanese
city is to live among the dead. ``Walking here gives me a strange feeling
the war never ended,'' Sugiyama said. ``That countries today are still
testing these weapons, and that people are proud of this, just strikes
me as egotism and nothing more.''
- The ambassadors of India and Pakistan
have travelled to Hiroshima for the anniversary ceremonies. But in what
one Hiroshima official said was a disappointing snub to city authorities,
the ambassadors of the five longtime nuclear powers -- the United States,
Britain, France, China and Russia -- as usual turned down invitations to
attend. Writing in a visitors book at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum,
Indian Ambassador Siddharth Singh said his country was ``ready to cooperate
with all countries and all peoples'' to negotiate a convention that would
lead to the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the world.
- ``There must never, ever be another Hiroshima,''
Singh wrote. Nuclear activists from around the world have gathered for
the anniversary, holding a series of conferences to denounce not only India
and Pakistan but the five major nuclear powers. Maj-Britt Theorin, president
of the International Peace Bureau, said the world had reached a new crossroad
for action to abolish nuclear weapons. ``Nuclear testing by India and Pakistan
make it clear there is need for a new political energy to stop a new nuclear
arms race and turn to real disarmament of nuclear weapons,'' Theorin said.