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Remembering the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, 28 years on

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Remembering the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, 28 years on
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Ukrainians have been marking the 28th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident.

At around 1.26 am, the exact time of the blast, people gathered at a memorial in the capital Kyiv to remember victims.

Among those attending were families who had lost loved ones and ex-employees.

“This is a day of remembrance for the victims,” said Yuriy Cherkashun, 70, a former worker at the plant.

“We were workers at the Chernobyl nuclear plant reactor unit. This is our memory. All the names of the victims written here…we knew them. We worked together. This is our memory, a very difficult memory.”

Unlike Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011. which was caused by a natural disaster, events at Chernobyl were the result of human error.

On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the plant, in the then Soviet Union, exploded and caught fire after a safety test went badly wrong. The blast sent radiation billowing across Europe.

At first, authorities denied there was a problem. But tens of thousands of inhabitants were evacuated from Prypyat, the town closest to the site, never to return. A 30 km exclusion zone is still in place around the town.

Local firefighters and other emergency workers went straight to the scene and in the ensuing days and weeks sought to bring the situation under control. Exposed to high levels of radiation, few of them are alive today.

At least 30 people were killed immediately but some put the eventual death toll from radiation exposure at tens or even hundreds of thousands.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has since said that he considered the disaster one of the main nails in the coffin of the Soviet Union which eventually collapsed in 1991.