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CITY HALTS, BELLS TOLL TO MARK TIME OF BLAST

Clad in mourning colors of black and white, thousands of people paid quiet tribute Wednesday with prayers, flowers and incense to victims of the second Japanese city to suffer an atomic attack.

To mark the exact time that the plutonium bomb exploded half a century ago - 11:02 a.m. - this bustling port city came to a momentary standstill. Temple and cathedral bells tolled all over the city. Sirens shrilled. People bowed their heads in silence.About 70,000 people died in the explosion or its immediate aftermath. The city keeps track of subsequent deaths it believes are attributable to the blast; the roster has risen to more than 100,000.

Bomb survivor Sueko Yamasaki, 65, hadn't come to the annual ceremony in decades, but at the 50-year mark she felt it was time. She brought her granddaughter with her, to teach her about what happened that day.

"At the 100th anniversary, I won't be here, but she will - she'll be a grandmother like me," she said.

The main ceremony was held at a park built near the epicenter, before the city's principal bomb memorial, a statue of a seated figure with one hand extended toward the sky.

A platform before the statue was piled high with wreaths. A group of schoolchildren sang. The air was heavy with incense burned in offering to the dead.

As part of the ceremonies, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and other dignitaries delivered appeals for peace and a ban on nuclear testing. Calls for a test ban have been particularly fervent this year, as China has been conducting nuclear tests and France is planning a round of them beginning next month.