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Seriously deformed children of Chernobyl - The story of the nuclear fire and abandoned town of Pripyat.

Chernobyl reactor 4 after explosion

Chernobyl reactor 4 after explosion

Control room for reactor 4

Control room for reactor 4

Another view of reactor 4

Another view of reactor 4

Sarcophagus in place over reactor 4

Sarcophagus in place over reactor 4

Lines of vehicles and helicopter fenced off as they are radioactively too hot.

Lines of vehicles and helicopter fenced off as they are radioactively too hot.

Fire trucks fenced off for the same reason

Fire trucks fenced off for the same reason

Mil-8 helicopter too radioactive to approach

Mil-8 helicopter too radioactive to approach

More radioactive vehicles and helicopters

More radioactive vehicles and helicopters

Abandoned town of Pripyat

Abandoned town of Pripyat

Another view of abandoned Pripyat

Another view of abandoned Pripyat

Abandoned Pripyat harbour

Abandoned Pripyat harbour

First treatment room

First treatment room

Abandoned fun fair Pripyat

Abandoned fun fair Pripyat

The Red Forest - radioactivity has caused the leaves to take on a red colour

The Red Forest - radioactivity has caused the leaves to take on a red colour

Some children from the affected area

Some children from the affected area

My brother - please help him

My brother - please help him

Children are still being born with birth defects

Children are still being born with birth defects

Inside reactor buildings are still a mess

Inside reactor buildings are still a mess

Abandoned operating theatre

Abandoned operating theatre

Another view of the red forest

Another view of the red forest

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In a wooded, marshy area near to the Ukraine-Belarus border, approximately 11 miles northwest of the city of Chernobyl and 60 miles north of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, a nuclear accident occurred on Saturday, 26th April 1986, at 0123hrs local time.

In this rambling rural setting stands a large grey brooding structure known as the V.I.Lenin Memorial Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station consisting of 4 x 1gw reactors, although at the time only 2 were operational with two more (no.5 and 6) under construction.. This initial stage of just 4 reactors produced around 10% of Ukraine’s power requirement.

The power station was located near to the town of Pripyat, which was selected and expanded to provide homes for the power station employees and their families.

The construction of the power station was started in mid 1970s with the first reactor coming on line in 1977 and the forth generating power in 1983. At the time of the accident in 1986, two further reactors were under construction.

On the 26th April 1986, the station decided to carry out a power loss test to see if the turbines of Reactor No. 4 could produce enough residual energy to keep the coolant pumps running until the emergency diesel generator cut in. This was extremely hazardous and unbelievably ill-conceived without adequate planning and serious back-up. Unexpectedly during the test the power surged uncontrollably, resulting in an explosion and allowing temperatures in the reactor core to rise exponentially to more than 2000deg C, melting the fuel rods, igniting the reactor’s graphite covering, and releasing a huge cloud of radiation into the atmosphere.

With the normal degree of secrecy that surrounds any of the eastern bloc countries the precise reasons for the accident are still undisclosed or unknown. However, it is felt that one single factor was not to blame, although the generators took 3 times longer than anticipated to cut in. It was really a combination of design faults and reckless operator errors or planning. It was this that resulted in an explosion, fire and nuclear meltdown polluting the surrounding area and large swaths of Europe with unprecedented amounts of nuclear fallout.

It is very difficult to attribute directly specific numbers of deaths to the accident and by mid-2005, officially less than 60 deaths have been linked directly to the Chernobyl explosion. These were mostly power station workers exposed to massive radiation during the accident or local children who developed thyroid cancer.

Estimates of consequential deaths arising from the accident vary widely. In 2005 a group known as the Chernobyl Forum, formed from 8 U.N. organizations put a figure of around 4,000, whereas working on information from the Belarus National Academy of Sciences, the environmental watchdog group Greenpeace suggested as much as 93,000.

Subsequent research into the physical health effects of the Chernobyl nuclear incident has been carried out by both the Center for Independent Environmental Assessment of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Belarus National Academy of Sciences. They estimate about 270,000 people in the surrounding area will become cancer victims and between 90,000 and 140,000 will die in the whole Ukraine and Belarus area due to the radiation from Chernobyl.

Carried by the wind 70% of the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl came down in Belarus, affecting at least 3,600 towns and villages, and in the region of 2½ million people. The radiation contaminated the soil and crops which people have to eat. Within the fallout zone in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine the land is likely to be contaminated for many decades. This fallout was also found in sheep in the UK, which had to be destroyed, also Ireland, and on clothing worn by people throughout Europe, and even in rain as far West as the United States.

Following the accident, Soviet authorities resettled more than 350,000 people outside the worst affected areas, including the entire 50,000 people from the dormitory town of Pripyat, but millions of people are forced to continue to live under inadequate conditions in areas contaminated with radioactive fallout. The whole town of Pripyat stands today, abandoned, more or less as it was on that day, a ghostly memorial to man’s stupidity.

With regard to the damaged power plant, reactor No. 4 was sealed at great personal cost to many brave men who sacrificed their lives to stem the radioactive emissions. So great was the radioactivity for those flying helicopters or operating heavy machinery to initially seal the leak, that their aircraft and machines stand today, cordoned off, too radioactively hot to go for scrap, their operators long since dead. The actual story of the work is related below. The authorities hurriedly built a concrete sarcophagus over reactor 4, which is still full of radioactive material. However, this is starting leak, allowing water in which may contaminate the water table.

Absolutely incredibly the Ukrainian government allowed the other three reactors to keep operating to provide badly needed power. Reactor No. 2 was eventually shut down after a fire damaged it in 1991, and reactor No. 1 was finally decommissioned in 1996. In November 2000, the Ukrainian president shut down the last reactor No. 3 in an official ceremony that finally closed power production at Chernobyl facility. However, with the sarcophagus covering damaged reactor No. 4 gradually crumbling the whole area is an environmental time-bomb which will come back to bite us hard in the not too distant future.

The sarcophagus, hurriedly built, containing reactor No. 4 was designed to last about 30 years, and the authorities are studying designs to create a new shelter with a lifetime of 100 years. In the long-term this is totally inadequate as the radioactivity in the damaged reactor would need to be contained for 100,000 years to ensure safety for future generations. Whilst this seems an impossibility, it is the sort of safety time-scale we must consider and advances in future technology should be able to provide a solution. However in the short-term, because there is little movement forward, the international community is funding the construction of another "sarcophagus".

Events surrounding the containment of the accident.

Immediately the reactor blew the first priority was to control and extinguish the fires that had broken out on the roof of the power station and in the area surrounding reactor No. 4 in order to protect No. 3 and ensuring its core cooling systems remained intact. Appliances came in from neighbouring Pripyat aware that this was going to be a suicide mission. After about 5 hours the fires were extinguished, but inside reactor No. 4 the graphite continued to burn for a further 15 days until approx.. half had been consumed. The majority of the selfless firemen received massive doses of radiation and died later. Some of the fire-fighters involved, before they died, described their experience of the radiation as "tasting like metal", and feeling a sensation similar to that of pins and needles all over their faces. I have to acknowledge the incredible bravery of these men, who fought a fire and ecological disaster knowing full well it would kill them.

The system of extinguishing the fire and preventing further radioactive contamination was by using Mi-8 helicopters to drop over 5,000mt of sand, lead, clay, and neutron absorbing boron onto the burning reactor and by injecting liquid nitrogen to smother the fire. Subsequent research shows that virtually none of the boron managed to reach the reactor core. The initial explosion and fire ejected dangerous fission products into the air including nuclear fuel, radioactive isotopes such as caesium-137, iodine-131, strontium-90 and other radionuclides. This formed a radioactive cloud in the air which was seen by many of the local inhabitants.

The authorities were not willing to sacrifice any more men after the initial fire and explosion and brought in unmanned remote-controlled bulldozers and robot-trucks that could both detect radioactivity and carry hot and radioactive debris. However, they quickly found that robotic equipment could not be used everywhere as the high radiation levels killed the electronics.

The dormitory town of Pripyat was not immediately evacuated and remained ignorant of the extent of the danger. Everyone continued as normal until a few hours later dozens of people suddenly fell ill. As the day progressed they reported severe headaches and metallic tastes in their mouths, along with uncontrollable fits of coughing and vomiting.

It was not until 2 days later that a short 20 sec announcement was made to the people of the Soviet Union. Prior to that time, the state radio played only classical music, which was the usual way of preparing the public for news that something tragic, had happened. The brief announcement read on State TV was as follows:

There has been an accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. One of the nuclear reactors was damaged. The effects of the accident are being remedied. Assistance has been provided for any affected people. An investigative commission has been set up.”

For some reason the scientist teams were armed and placed on alert as instructions from the Government and security services were awaited. It was only when the wind borne radiation levels set off alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, over 1000 kilometres away from the Chernobyl Plant, did the Soviet Union admit to the world that an accident had occurred. Even then the authorities attempted to conceal the scale of the disaster.

The aftermath and on-going consequences.

The town of Pripyat, with a population 45,000, was evacuated soon after the accident. Evacuation procedures were pretty much non-existent and were chaotic. People had no choice but to leave their homes and many of their possessions and flee, never to return. Many were eventually reluctantly re-settled in other existing communities away from the area or new settlement areas built especially for evacuees. To date, over 350,000 people have been relocated away from the contaminated land. At the time of the accident, some 7 million people lived in areas that became contaminated, including 3 million children. After the explosion more than 5 million people, including more than a million children, remain living in contaminated zones. Soil contamination is estimated to last for 24,000 years.

Some 27 years later, highly toxic radioactive elements are still spread by the dust particles from the plant, deposited in the earth by rainfall or enter the food chain through plants and animals.. Millions of people continue to be exposed to this low level radiation, and some of their children are born with disabilities so severe their parents either can’t bear to keep them or feel unable to deal with them.

These children are the most severely affected as a result of the radioactive pollution from the Chernobyl disaster. Their immune system against cancer and other diseases is very low and a significant percentage of the youngsters will suffer from cancer of the thyroid gland, bone cancer and leukaemia. Research has shown that if the children from Chernobyl can be given a holiday away from the pollution, on their return home their immune system will have been greatly improved. Research and statistics show that for each week away in clean air and with healthy uncontaminated food their life expectancy is extended by 1 year and a 1 month holiday will give another 2 years. It can also significantly reduce the amount of radioactive caesium which has built up in the child’s body.

Even now many of the children come from homes that have no running water or toilets available and their food is contaminated. There are still many children living in tiny rural villages, sometimes just a few miles from the derelict Chernobyl plant. These children may not have been struck down yet, but their future is bleak if they continue to live in such a radioactive environment.

There are now over 148,274 invalids on the Chernobyl registry in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

Belarus, Ukraine and Russia have provided some sort of meagre pension and other social assistance to victims. However, medical care is variable and ill funded and pensions are really insufficient to provide any sort of adequate standard of living for the victims. Many of the resettlement villages are in isolated areas away from the mainstream of social life and employment and economic development in the affected regions are rare.

The international community, in response to the knowledge that taking children (and their mothers, sometimes) on holiday to unpolluted countries can give such an improvement in their health have opened their hearts and homes to achieve this. In cases where the children are too ill to travel, special rest clinics in unpolluted areas have been established and run and funded by dedicated charities.

The response to predicament of the children has been worldwide and I list below some of charities in various countries and the work they do, if known. I must stress that these are not in any order of importance as each is life giving and selfless.


There are currently about 47 UK charities registered to help children on recuperative trips. Below are details of some of them.

Chernobyl Children’s Project (UK) - Registered Charity No. 1059832 Each summer children and young people are given a holiday at a lovely special camp, near Minsk, run by volunteers from the UK. The children come from Zhuravichi Boarding Home and Rechitsa Boarding School and others in need. In addition each summer they bring around 300 children to Britain for a recuperative holiday.

Registered Office: Kinder House, Fitzalan Street, Glossop, Derby SK13 7DL. Tel: 01457 862112 / 863534. Email:

Exeter Children of Chernobyl - Provides recuperative holidays in Devon, for Belarusian children aged 8 to 11 years from the Brest region. It is part of the City Community Church, registered charity number: 1060985..

E-mail contact:

The Friends of Chernobyl's Children- (Charity Registration Number 1049689) Brings Belarusian children for vacations and medication to England.

Charity Director: Mrs Olwyn Keogh. No 1 Brooklands, Chipping, Forest of Bowland, Lancs. tel. 01995 61305; e-mail contact:

Chernobyl Children Life Line - (England Charity reg:1014274). British charity "Chernobyl Children Life Line" originally coordinated by the founder and chairman, Victor Mizzi.. Over 2000 children are brought to the UK each year for recuperation.

Contact address: Chairman: V.F.Mizzi, Chernobyl Children Life Line, Courts 61 Petworth Road, Haslemere, Surrey GU27 3AX England; CCLL HQ Tel - 01428 642523, Fax - 01428 651642; e-mail contact:

This charity has many other links all over the UK providing recuperation facilities for affected children.

They are in Bedford, Derby, Nottingham, Ashbourne, Pinxton, Loughborough, Lanarkshire, Shrewsbury, Hull & East Riding, Narborough, Burtonwood, Red Rose Link, East Bristol, Dundee and Angus and North Pembrokeshire,

The Friends of Chernobyl's Children is a British voluntary group and a registered charity (#1049689) based in Clitheroe in the North-West of England, dedicated to bringing a group children from Mogilev that are affected by radiation to the UK every year.

Contact: Heather Whittaker e-mail:

Medicine and Chernobyl is a Blyth based branch of the Minsk charity.This organization brings children out of an orphanage in the contaminated region for one month each year. They also send out medical and educational aid and have frequently visited Minsk, Mogilev and Mtsislavl.

Contact: Mr. Brian Seddon, 21 Wellesley School, Links Road, Blyth, UK NE24 3PF E-mail:

Buskit is a charity organization from Central Scotland, Charity No: SCO20917. Buskit members send aid by truck once a year too "Children in Trouble" in Minsk, Belarus

Contact address is: Mr. Alan Wardrop 27 Ramsay Tullis Drive, Tullibody, Clacks, FK10 2UD, UK; ph.: +44 1259 722793; Fax: (+44) 1259 722793; E-mail:

Bel-Aid Scotland working on behalf of the victims of Chernobyl This registered Scottish charity was established in 1994 to provide medical aid to the victims of the Chernobyl disaster. Their convoys carry aid to children's and old people's orphanages and they host groups of children and their carer’s in Scotland each year. Bel-Aid Scotland is developing self-help groups and seeks support from likeminded people.

Contact address: The Hon Mrs R Lesley Melville, Little Deuchar, Fern, Forfar, Angus, Scotland DD8 3RA, UK; Tel/Fax +44 1356 650279; e-mail:

Medicine & Chernobyl is a UK charity helping Belarus since 1992. It has groups in Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Norfolk, Essex, Oxfordshire.

Contact: Medicine & Chernobyl, c/o 123 Rivington Drive, Burscough, Lancashire. UK. L40 7RW; Tel/Fax 01704 894757; e-mail contact: P.A.Gudgeon (secretary)

Chernobyl Children Life Line. Is a Dunfermline/West Fife Scottish group bringing children to Fife area for one month's health break. They are part of UK-wide Chernobyl Children Life Line umbrella charity organization.

Contact e-mail:

Camps for Children of Chernobyl UK

Is a UK charity which is a part of Camps For Children Of Chernobyl In the USA. Reg No 1085492. Their mission is the same as in USA branch - to bring children from Belarusian areas contaminated by radioactive dust for recuperation. They also work in Ukraine and Western Russia as part of their charitable work and also help the families.

Contact: Dave Chatfield UK Director, 121 Hinton Road Hereford HR2 6BN, UK; Phone: 01432 357517; e-mail

Chernobyl Childline Appeal is a UK charity hosting Belarusian children from Asipovichy district, Mogilev Voblast .for recovery in non-radioactivity contaminated area.


Chernobyl Children Appeal (NI) Ltd.- is the largest Chernobyl charity in Northern Ireland, established in 1994. CCA has also established links with several hospitals within Belarus/Ukraine and in N. Ireland who inform the Office on how to best provide medical assistance. This relationship has led to on-site cross-training exchanges, an expansion of CCA’s Medical Exchange Programme for Belarusian doctors in the U.K. which has been in place since 1995.

Contact address: 44a Church St., Ballymena, Co. Antrim, BT 43 6DF; Ph.: 02825 632767; e-mail:

Chernobyl Children's Project (UK) started in 1995 it is currently supporting children with cancer – through purchase of medicines and hospice care – and improving the lives of children with special needs. They support associations of families with disabled children; and have recently set up the first Respite Care Centre in Belarus. Family Home 2000 was established as a small home for young adults with physical disabilities and Rodny Kut is a family home for young children with special needs who came from Zhuravichi. CCP(UK) (not part of Chernobyl Children's Project International) also organize many educational exchange visits of doctors, teachers and social workers, and have carried out a major training programme which has helped to get more children from orphanages fostered into local families.

Contact address: Chernobyl Children's Project (UK)+44 1457 863534 /862112 Linda Walker, National Co-ordinator

Greater London SW Scout Network is a British scout organization that does charitable acts in Belarus. Members of Network aged 18-25 travelledto Belarus in July 2004 to construct an adventure playground at a boarding school at Radun (near Lida). They also took avan-full of humanitarian aid - clothes, toys, and educational materials. Phase 2 of the Project will involve providing medical kit to a children's hospital in Minsk.

Contact:: Chris Dean e-mail

SAM Chernobyl Relief - is a Scottish Chernobyl Charity. Along with other charities, SAM Chernobyl Relief seeks to get alongside the people of Belarus to encourage and help in any ways they can to make life a bit more bearable for the people they meet. SAM is a Christian Charity seeking to show the love of God in word and action. Their motto is "Encourage one another and build each other up". (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Contact address: Colin & Cindy Mackenzie, 39 McLaren Drive, Bellshill, Scotland, ML4 2FB; Tel: 01698 849417; email:

Belarus Aid Medicine and Chernobyl Funding carers and providing medicines.+441704893081

Chernobyl Children Cancer Care Bronllys' Portland Place Lisvane Cardiff CF4 5EQ UK +33 1222 76613 +44 1222 76613

Chernobyl Children Cancer Care +441270610443

Chernobyl North-East+441914164869

Friends of Chernobyl Children formed in October 1994 arranges 4 week recuperative visits to East Lancashire for groups of 50 children each year.+4412542489

Medicine and Chernobyl Hosts children for recuperative 1 month visits to the UK +44257462604 BLYT +441670361313 Preston Branch; +441772204697

Belarus Aid - A branch of Medicine & Chernobyl Raising money for medical equipment and mini bus - (UK) 441257463703

ICRHER ISF Hospital - Bridgeport +1 2033844696 Nicholas Dainal

Leaves of Hope - is a small, Welsh based, charity ( reg. #1077872) formed in May 1999 and their work is centred in Unit 5 of the Novinki Orphanage. The Novinki State Boarding School, as it is more properly known, is situated in the outskirts of Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. It is home to some 220 children aged between 4 and 26 who suffer from varying degrees of mental and physical disabilities - from the severely handicapped to those simply suffering from the natural result of institutionalisation.

Contact address: e-mail: Mr. Ivor Cox


Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International -Ireland

To date has raised 92 million and have arranged for 22,500+ children to be brought from radiation zones to homes in Ireland for rest & recuperation. Contact at Chernobyl Children International, Ballycurreen Industrial Estate, Kinsale Road, Cork, Ireland. Phone +353 21 4 312 999 Email us at

Chernobyl Children’s Trust Ireland announces major initiative at children’s oncology centre in Belarus. CCT chairman Simon Walsh recently met with the director of oncology at Borovlyani centre for children’s oncology, professor Olga Aleinikova to discuss plans & to announce CCT’s decision to be the first international partner to this critically important project. Borovlyani is the World’s 3rd largest children’s oncology facility but children are literally dying for lack of accommodation.

Chernobyl Children's Trust is an Irish registered charity set up and run by volunteers dedicated to helping Children, families and communities and bringing groups of children to Ireland for 2-4 week recuperative visits.

Chernobyl Children’s Trust, 33 Ashington Dale, Navan Road, Dublin 7, Ireland. Phone No: +353-1-55 436 55

Irish Chernobyl-Helping Organization This may not be the exact name of this organization + the e-mail connection is very unreliable.

Contact address is: Mr. Justin McCarthy; 90237722@vax1.dcu


Chernobyl Children's Project LTD - is one of the oldest organizations started in Cork, Ireland,1991 by Ms. Adi Roche with the help of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Cork Youth Association. Visit their great Web site to find out about more. It contains extracts from the book; children's paintings and poems and even video clips.

Contact address: Chernobyl Children's Project Ltd, 8 Sidneyville, Bellevue Park, St. Luke's, Cork City, Ireland; Phone 021-506411; FAX: 021-551544; Or you can e-mail Ms. Adi Roche, director, at

The Friends of the Children of Chernobyl is a registered Irish charity, which has been active in Belarus since 1992. During that time they havebrought a lot of children from Belarus to Ireland, mainly from the Pinsk region.

Contact address: Mr. Myles O'Brien, Mylan Cottage, Caragh Lake, Co. Kerry, Rep. of Ireland. Ph.: + 066 - 9769147; e-mail:

Barna Chernobyl Group- is an Irish charity working in Belarus since 1995. They bring children to Galway and bring medicines and money to the children and their families in Belarus. They work mainly in Lida, but also Brest, Minsk, Stolin and Zhlobin..

Contact address: Barna Chernobyl Group, Barna, Co. Galway, Ireland; e-mail chairperson Paula Kerr:

Chernobyl Children's Project,- is an Irish initiative, in association with Tipp FM Radio The Chernobyl Children's Project is a most deserving cause and appreciates the work done by musicians through the World.

Contact address: Chernobyl Children’s Project, 2 Camden Place, Camden Quay, Cork, Ireland Contact: Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children International -Ireland listed above.

Burren Chernobyl Project- is an Irish charity established in 1993 to help with the child victims of the fallout from the Chernobyl reactor explosion. Many projects have been carried out to assist the children and their families who are enduring the effects of exposure to radiation and the other social and economic problems facing them in Belarus.

Contact address: The Burren Chernobyl Project, The Monastery, Ennistymon, Co. Clare, Ireland; tel.: +353 65 7071130; e-mail:


Fund for the Children of Chernobyl N.WIs an organization in Seattle, Washington, USA.

Contact address is: Mrs. Nancy Neal-Oldenettel;

Missions Action Team Pine Valley United Methodist Church- is church community in Seattle, Washington, USA. helping Chernobyl children.

Contact address is: Mr. Buck Norton Chairman, Missions Action Team Pine Valley United Methodist Church Wilmington, NC (910) 791-8809; e-mail

American Belarusian Relief Organization (ABRO)is organized in North Carolina. ABRO has brought about 400 children over for medical evaluation last summer. Over 50 Americans - some Doc and RN - went to Belarus recently to work with orphanages and hospitals. ABRO will have another group to go over in spring and again in summer for their summer camp project, where ABRO helps 75-100 children in a camp setting.

Contact address is: PO Box 1224, Concord, North Carolina 28026-1224; Ph.: (704) 549-9699; e-mail:

Belarus-American Child Health Foundationis a publicly funded, non-profit charitable organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Supports various medical education programmes.

Contact address: Belarus-American Child Health Foundation, Thomas P. Foley, Jr., M.D., Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

Friends to Friendsis organized in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. Has sent several containers of humanitarian aid and has sponsored children for visits.

Contact address is: President Alice Ann Klingler at

Children of Chernobyl Friendship Fund - CCFF has sent humanitarian aid to Chernobyl contaminated areas and hosted Children of Chernobyl in northern California since 1999.

President Olivia Anslinger Carniglia, 1441 Twilight Place, Santa Rosa CA 95409-4397; Tel. 707-537-0951; Fax 707-537-9429; E-mail