By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Memorial: Paper lanterns float down the Motoyasu River in Hiroshima to mark the 66th anniversary of the bombing
The Japanese city of Hiroshima on Saturday marked the 66th anniversary of the bombing, as the nation fights a different kind of disaster from atomic technology - a nuclear plant in a meltdown crisis after being hit by a tsunami.
The site of the world's first A-bomb attack observed a moment of silence at 8:15 a.m. Saturday (2315 GMT Friday) - the time the bomb was dropped on Aug. 6, 1945, by the United States in the last stages of World War II.
The bomb destroyed most of the city and killed as many as 140,000 people. A second atomic bombing August 9th that year in Nagasaki killed tens of thousands more and prompted the Japanese to surrender.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Saturday laid a wreath of yellow flowers at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and reiterated Japan's promise to never repeat the horrors of Hiroshima, whose suffering continues today because of illnesses passed down over generations.
Light in darkness: The lanterns lit up the city, which was devastated by the atomic bomb 66 years ago
Japan has long vowed never to make or possess nuclear weapons, but embraced nuclear power as it aimed to rebuild and modernise after the war.
Crowds of people clutching Buddhist prayer beads bowed their heads Saturday in commemorating the dead as pigeons were released during the solemn gathering repeated every year before the skeletal dome of a bomb-ravaged building.
Moving journey: The lanterns can be seen winding round the river bend, past the Atomic Dome near Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Messages of peace: The lanterns contained special pictures and messages
The prime minister, in his speech, also touched on Japan's more recent nuclear catastrophe at the northeastern Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, where a massive tsunami set off by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake on March 11 knocked out backup generators that powered the plant's cooling mechanisms.
Kan repeated a promise to embrace renewable energy and rely less on nuclear power.
Solemn: Pigeons are released during a ceremony held every year to commemorate the dead
March: Demonstrators raise placards to protest against nuclear power and weapons and they file past the A-bomb dome
Never forget: Banners call for an end to nuclear weapons
Memorial: Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (centre) makes a speech during the service to commemorate those who lost their lives
Remembrance: Mourners at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima light candles to remember the victims of the 1945 atomic bombing
The memory lives on: All generations come together to pray for the victims of the atomic bombing after burning incense in the memorial park
Vigil: Buddhist followers parade with lanterns in their hands in prayer for peace on the eve of the 66th anniversary of the bombing