An Overview of what has Happened
April 26th, 1986 at 1:23 AM the world witnessed the worst technological catastrophe it had ever known.
An explosion at the fourth reactor in Chornobyl hurled approximately 50 million curries of radio-active particles into the atmosphere. The equivalent of 300 nuclear bombs -- like those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, spreading radiation over Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Russia and Europe.
The residents of Pripyat, less then one and a half miles from the burning reactor, were told nothing of the accident.
During the first night hundreds of fire trucks were rushed to Chornobyl. The were followed by military equipment -- tanks, helicopters and trucks - all under the cover of secrecy.
Throughout the night fire fighters worked to extinguish the fire.
Thousands of tons of sand and lead were dropped from the air -- by helicopter, to extinguish the burning reactor.
In the morning, still, no one had been informed about the accident. No one was warned. Children played in school yards. Women pushing baby carriages went shopping; joggers ran along the riverside. Life went on as usual.
The Ukrainian SSR government prepared for evacuation. Early the morning of the 27th , 1400 buses were sent to Chornobyl. But the order to evacuate was not given by Moscow. The buses waited.
Finally at 2:00 PM, on April 27th, A full 36 hours after the initial explosion, people were told that they were to be evacuated for 3 days due to a minor accident at the plant. The cities of Pripyat, Chornobyl and 76 villages were evacuated.
Ninety-one thousand people left their homes with only what they could carry -- never to return again. In total to date more then 150,000 people were resettled, in Ukraine alone.
The crisis escalated. The reactor core was sinking. Water under the damaged reactor was in danger of coming in contact with the liquified graphite. The result would have been a massive explosion.
Fire fighters and workers from the power plant worked day and night to pump the water out from under the damaged reactor. Water with extremely high levels of radiation.
Miners were called to build a tunnel - so that the reactor could be reinforced.
May 1st, May Day -- hundreds of thousands of people in Kiev, participated in the Soviet tribute to communism. Less then 80 miles from Chornobyl, workers, and school children marched in the May Day Parade. The celebrations were not canceled by the Soviet government, so as to prove to the world that nothing of consequence had happened.
On the eighth day after the accident -- the danger of a massive explosion had been averted -- the water under the reactor had been removed.
Robots were brought in to clear the graphite from the roof of the plant. The electronic controls failed to function in such high levels of radiation. People with shovels were called in instead.
Within the first 18 months after the accident, 800,000 cleanup workers, from all of the 15 Soviet Republics had been dispatched to work in the clean up of Chornobyl.
(Originally written for "Chornobyl Tragedy and Hope" by Time Warner/Florida. Used by permission.)
HTML by Chris Cochems. Last updated 11/25/98.