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Centennial Of 'Titanic' Disaster Marked

Passengers and crew aboard the cruise ships "Balmoral" and "Azamara" in the North Atlantic have held a memorial service at the location where the "Titanic" sank 100 years ago.

More than 1,500 people died in the historic tragedy.

"We come together in a spirit of remembrance to give thanks for the lives of 1,503 men, women, and children lost to the freezing Atlantic waters 100 years ago this evening," "Azamara" cruise director Tony Markey told the audience at the late-night commemoration.

Earlier, the "Azamara" issued a commemorative distress call, announcing the collision. "Have struck an iceberg," the call ran. "We require immediate assistance."

"We're here tonight at the graves of 1,503 victims on the 'Titanic.' And once again we ask the question, why? Why?" Reverend Robert Lawrence said in leading the religious ceremony aboard the "Azamara." "We want the reassurance that death is but an open door that leads us from one form of life to another. Shakespeare himself says that it is indeed the land from which no traveler has returned but yet within our faith is ever real and ever present."

The "Balmoral," which is retracing the path of the "Titanic," released three memorial wreaths and sounded its ship's whistle in the darkness to mark the sinking.

In Halifax, Canada, where 150 "Titanic" victims are buried, church bells rang out to mark the moment of the sinking. The sky was lit up by distress flares.

In Belfast, Ireland, where the "Titanic" was built, a memorial garden was to be opened.

One day earlier, U.S. oceanographer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the "Titanic" in 1985, spoke in Belfast and urged that the site be proclaimed "an underwater museum." He advocated painting the hull of the wreck to prevent further corrosion.

Some 300 people attended a memorial in Lichfield, England, near the home of "Titanic" Captain Edward Smith, who perished in the disaster.

The "Titanic" was the world's largest and most luxurious ocean liner when it sank on its maiden voyage from England to New York City on the night of April 14-15, 1912. Of the 2,208 passengers and crew on board, 1,503 people died.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters