20 years ago catastrophic explosions at unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear plant caused an as yet unknown number of deaths and brought to its end the age of nuclear innocence. And on April 26th the world’s worst ever nuclear accident was marked in Slavutych, the city built to house the displaced workers of the plant, by a procession of mourners bearing candles and red carnations.
The consequences of the accident’s resulting airborne contamination were measured across the length and breadth of Europe, but the hardest hit were Ukrainians, Belarusians and Russians, and especially those that were forced to leave their homes and restart their lives under the spectre of the radiation they were exposed to.
At the exact time of the accident, 1.23am, a minute’s silence was observed as bells tolled in Slavutych, across Ukraine and all affected territories alike.
In Kiev President Viktor Yuschenko laid a wreath in honour of the brave workers who risked and lost their lives fighting the toxic fires in the bottom of the reactor building, and battling to cool down the reactor core to prevent the risk of a terrible flash steam explosion. While at a special session devoted to the anniversary, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said “Today’s ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the accident do not, unfortunately, mean we can say farewell to Chernobyl.”