Hiroshima, Japan Capping a day of solemn remembrance, thousands of paper lanterns representing the souls of the dead were floated on a Hiroshima river Saturday near ground zero for the world's first atomic bomb attack 60 years ago.
The annual lantern observance brought to a close a full day of memorials, ranging from official gatherings to a "die-in" and dozens of small-scale peace rallies.
At 8:15 a.m., the moment of the 1945 blast, the city's trolleys stopped. More than 55,000 people, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, observed a moment of silence at Peace Memorial Park that was broken only by the ringing of a bronze bell.
A flock of doves was released into the sky. Then wreaths and ladles of water - symbolizing the suffering of those who died in the atomic inferno - were offered at a simple, arch-shaped stone monument at the center of the park.
"I offer deep prayers from my heart to those who were killed," Koizumi said, vowing that Japan would be a leader in the international movement against nuclear proliferation.
Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, an outspoken critic of Koizumi's hawkish foreign policy, was more emotional in his "Peace Declaration." He gave a passionate plea for the abolition of all nuclear weapons and said the United States, Russia and other members of the nuclear club were "jeopardizing human survival."
"Within the United Nations, nuclear club members use their veto power to override the global majority and pursue their selfish objectives," he said. "We seek to comfort the souls of all the victims by declaring that we humbly reaffirm our responsibility never to repeat the evil."
Outside the nearby A-Bomb Dome, one of the few buildings left standing after the blast, peace activists held a "die-in" - falling to the ground to dramatize the toll from the bombing.
Though Hiroshima is now a thriving city of 3 million, most of whom were born after the war, the anniversary underscores the depth of its tragedy.
Officials estimate that about 140,000 people were killed instantly or died within a few months after the Enola Gay dropped its deadly payload over the city, which then had a population of about 350,000.
Three days later, another U.S. bomber, Bock's Car, dropped a plutonium bomb on the city of Nagasaki, killing about 80,000 people. Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, bringing World War II to a close.
Each year, the number of dead from the Hiroshima bomb increases because city officials add those who have died afterward of a loosely defined set of bomb-related ailments, including cancers. Officials now put the total number of the dead in this city alone at 242,437.
This year, 5,373 more names were added to the list.
Fumie Yoshida, who survived the blast but lost her father, brother and sister, said she chose not to attend the formal memorial, instead joining a small group of friends to pay her respects privately in the park.
Yoshida was 16 when Hiroshima was bombed. She hid under a desk at her school, which was about 2 miles from the epicenter.
"My father's remains have never been found," she said. "Those of us who went through this all know that we must never repeat this tragedy. But I think many Japanese today are forgetting."
In central London, more than 200 anti-nuclear activists and others gathered at Tavistock Square, where a cherry tree was planted in 1967 in memory of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing.
In the United States, survivors of the blasts joined hundreds of people in Nevada, New Mexico and Tennessee calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons. The commemorations were held at sites significant in the development of the atomic bombs.