Chernobyl Kills On
The nightmare continues:
It is 20 years this week since the world's worst nuclear accident shot huge amounts of radiation into the Ukraine sky. Now hospital wards there, in Belarus and in Russia are filled with sick youngsters who are the latest, but not the last, casualties of the disaster.
Only two people were killed in the explosion, but the lethal legacy of the accident could scarcely be grasped at the time. Within a few months 31 emergency workers - the 'liquidators' - had died. Two decades later, Chernobyl is blamed for thousands of deaths and has blighted the health, economic prosperity and social fabric of millions of people, especially in Belarus.
A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency and seven other United Nations bodies estimated 4,000 people would die as a result of Chernobyl. The report was greeted by relief and disbelief. Many studies from the World Health Organisation, independent scientists and campaign groups had predicted a far more catastrophic impact. In response, a group of disbelievers, led by the European Green party, commissioned their own study, The Other Chernobyl Report, or Torch, which estimated a toll of between 30,000 and 60,000 premature deaths. Last week the international Greenpeace campaign group released another study by 50 scientists claiming 200,000 lives would be lost, nearly half from cancers.