Monday 26 September 2016

30 years on, Chernobyl remembers victims of world's worst nuclear disaster

Published 26/04/2016 | 10:15

The remains of an abandoned cultural center in Pripyat
The remains of an abandoned cultural center in Pripyat
A Ferris wheel in Pripyat
Beds in a Pripyat kindergarten
A view is seen of the dry spent nuclear fuel storage (ISF-2) under construction at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, Ukraine, April 22, 2016
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat is seen near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine April 22, 2016
A containment shelter for the damaged fourth reactor (L) and the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure (R) at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant are seen from Ukraine's abandoned town of Pripyat, Ukraine, April 22, 2016
A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine April 22, 2016
An interior view of a flat is seen in the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine April 22, 2016
Employees work at construction of the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, Ukraine, April 22, 2016
Journalists ride in a bus near a sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine April 22, 2016.
Trees stand outside a window of an apartment which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016
Nikolay Chernyavskiy, 66, poses for a photograph in his flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016
Zoya Perevozchenko, 66, poses for a photograph in her house which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 5, 2016
A toy is seen in a flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016. For residents of Chernobyl, a three-day evacuation turned into a thirty-year exile
An electricity socket is seen in a flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016. For residents of Chernobyl, a three-day evacuation turned into a thirty-year exile
Moss is seen growing on a child's slipper in the ghost town of Pripyat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine April 18, 2016. For residents of Chernobyl, a three-day evacuation turned into a thirty-year exile
The handle of a window and a dead butterfly lie on a windowsill in a flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016
The number of an apartment is seen in a flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016
The control center of the damaged fourth reactor
Rusty lids of jars are scattered across the top of a broken cupboard in a flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016
Mailboxes are seen in an apartment which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016
Tatyana Chernyavskaya, 65, poses for a photograph in her flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016. For residents of Chernobyl, a three-day evacuation turned into a thirty-year exile
An undated photograph shows Oleksiy Yermakov (L) before the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the town of Pripyat, Ukraine
Oleksiy Yermakov, 41, poses for a photograph in his flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 5, 2016. For residents of Chernobyl, a three-day evacuation turned into a thirty-year exile. Returning to their hometown of Pripyat on the eve of the anniversary, they recall their confusion and sacrifice in the wake of the world's worst nuclear accident
A lamp hangs in a flat which was evacuated after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, in the ghost town of Pripyat, Ukraine April 18, 2016. For residents of Chernobyl, a three-day evacuation turned into a thirty-year exile

Ukraine held memorial services on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which permanently poisoned swathes of eastern Europe and highlighted the shortcomings of the secretive Soviet system.

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In the early hours of April 26, 1986, a botched test at the nuclear plant in then-Soviet Ukraine triggered a meltdown that spewed deadly clouds of atomic material into the atmosphere, forcing tens of thousands of people from their homes.

Relatives of those who died as a result of the world's worst nuclear accident attended a candle-lit vigil in a Kiev church, built in their memory.

"We did not think that this accident would change all our lives, dividing them into 'before the war' and 'after the war' as we called it. It was silent nuclear war for us," said Lyudmila Kamkina, a former worker at the plant.

Others gathered for a service in Slavutych, a town 50 km (30 miles) from Chernobyl that was established to house many of those who had to leave their homes for ever.

More than half a million civilian and military personnel were drafted in from across the former Soviet Union as so-called liquidators to clean-up and contain the nuclear fallout, according to the World Health Organization.

Thirty-one plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the accident, most from acute radiation sickness.

Over the past three decades, thousands more have succumbed to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, although the total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.

Nikolay Chernyavskiy, 65, who worked at Chernobyl and later volunteered as a liquidator, recalls climbing to the roof of his apartment block in the nearby town of Prypyat to get a look at the plant after the accident.

"My son said 'Papa, Papa, I want to look too'. He's got to wear glasses now and I feel like it's my fault for letting him look," Chernyavskiy said.

The anniversary has garnered extra attention due to the imminent completion of a giant €1.5bn ($1.7 billion) steel-clad arch that will enclose the stricken reactor site and prevent further leaks for the next 100 years.

The project was funded with donations from more than 40 governments. Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said lessons learned from Chernobyl should be heeded all over the world.

Even with the new structure, the surrounding exclusion zone - 2,600 square km (1,000 square miles) of forest and marshland on the border of Ukraine and Belarus - will remain uninhabitable and closed to unsanctioned visitors.

The disaster and the government's reaction highlighted the flaws of the Soviet system with its unaccountable bureaucrats and entrenched culture of secrecy. For example, the evacuation order only came 36 hours after the accident.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has said he considers Chernobyl one of the main nails in the coffin of the Soviet Union, which eventually collapsed in 1991

Reuters

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