HIROSHIMA, Japan: Humanity is playing with a loaded gun as the world's crises with the potential for nuclear catastrophe continue, UN head Antonio Guterres said in Hiroshima on Saturday, the 77th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack.
At an annual memorial, Guterres warned of the dangers posed by crises in Ukraine, the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula, as he described the horrors endured by the Japanese city.
In the blink of an eye, tens of thousands of people were killed in this city. He said that women, children and men were incinerated in a hellish fire.
Survivors were cursed with a radioactive legacy of cancer and other health problems.
What can we learn from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city? Around 140,000 people died when Hiroshima was bombed by the US on Aug 6, 1945 - a toll that includes those who died from radiation exposure.
Today, crises with grave nuclear undertones are spreading fast - the Middle East, to the Korean Peninsula, Russia's invasion of Ukraine Guterres said, repeating the warnings he made at a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York this week.
Before dawn, survivors and their relatives began to gather at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park to offer flowers and prayers.
The moment the bomb was dropped, a silent prayer was held at 8.15 am.
The Russian ambassador was not invited to the ceremony but visited Hiroshima on Thursday to lay flowers at the memorial site.
President Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled threats since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, hinting at a willingness to deploy tactical nuclear weapons.
In a speech on Saturday, Hiroshima mayor Kazumi Matsui praised Leo Tolstoy, Russian author of War and Peace, saying: "Never build your happiness on the misfortune of others, only in their happiness can you find your own." Three days after Hiroshima bombing, Washington dropped a plutonium bomb on the Japanese port city of Nagasaki, killing about 74,000 people and leading to the end of World War II.
The United States is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons in conflict.
The UN head said around 13,000 are now held in state arsenals around the world.
Saturday was the first time that Guterres attended the Hiroshima memorial in person, a visit last year was cancelled because of the COVID 19 pandemic.