26 April 2016
An icon hangs among the ruins of one of the few remaining structures at the site of the raized village of Navilovka near Chachersk, Belarus. Navilovka was among hundreds of villages in Belarus demolished by authorities and the residents evacuated following radiation contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. (photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine:
The meltdown at the Soviet plant was the worst nuclear disaster in history.
An uncontrolled reaction blew the roof off, spewing out a cloud of radioactive material which drifted into other parts of the USSR, including Russia and Belarus, and northern Europe.
Relatives of those who died attended candle-lit vigils at several churches, including at Slavutych, a town built to re-house workers who lived near the nuclear plant. A series of events are being held throughout the day.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko laid a wreath and observed a minute’s silence in the Ukrainian capital Kiev before heading north for a ceremony at the plant itself, not far from the Belarussian border.
Speaking in Chernobyl, he said the nuclear disaster had been Ukraine’s biggest challenge between the Nazi occupation in World War Two and the recent conflict in eastern Ukraine, which he described as “Russian aggression”.
Vasyl Markin, who had been working in Chernobyl at the time of the disaster, attended the midnight vigil in Slavutych.
“This tragedy will stay with us till the end of our lives,” he said. “I won’t be able to forget it anyway.”
The disaster forced over 250,000 to be relocated and resulted in the deaths of thousands from radiation poisoning, including 31 clean up workers.
Last week, Pope Francis remembered the victims:
Pope Francis on Wednesday prayed for the victims of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station disaster 30 years from the tragedy.
Addressing the various groups of pilgrims of different nationalities present in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope had special greetings for those from Ukraine and Belarus.
Mentioning the International Conference that has been organized to mark the anniversary, Pope Francis said he is “praying for the victims of that disaster while expressing appreciation and gratitude to those who have assisted them and for the initiatives aimed at alleviating their suffering and the damage.”