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Ukraine marks 30 years since 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Ukraine marks 30 years since 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Women hold portraits of their lost husbands near a monument honoring people who were killed during cleanup efforts after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, during a memorial ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine, 26 April 2016. Soviet authorities, after initially trying to hide the disaster from the outside world and their own people, created a 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the destroyed reactor, resettling the tens of thousands who had lived there.

In the city of Slavutych - built for workers evacuated from the Chernobyl plant in the former Soviet Union - a remembrance ceremony was held for the "liquidators", the term for the thousands of military personnel and volunteers who responded to the unfolding accident without suitable protective equipment. The initial accident caused 31 deaths, while some 3.2 million people were exposed to unsafe levels of radiation.

The final death toll from Chornobyl is subject to speculation, due to the long-term effects of radiation, but ranges from an estimate of 9,000 by the World Health Organization to one of a possible 90,000 by the environmental group Greenpeace.

More commemorative events were being later Tuesday outside the Chernobyl power station as well as in Belarus and Russian Federation, neighboring countries that also suffered from the Chernobyl fallout. In both the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, work to remove the radioactive contamination from the reactor could take decades to complete, and survivors are still consuming food with radioactive contamination exceeding permissible limits.

In the early hours of April 26, 1986, Soviet engineers inadvertently set off a catastrophic explosion in reactor 4 of the plant while running a routine test. The blast and subsequent fire that raged for days spread radioactive contamination across huge areas, reaching as far as the United States. "And today everything is forgotten".

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Ukraine held memorial services.

"Trying to deal with the Chernobyl disaster is like the labor of Sisyphus".

"Do not forget that warfare was being waged only a few kilometres from the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant", Poroshenko said after laying flowers at the dark grey stone plaques honouring those who died trying to contain the 1986 inferno at Chernobyl.

Nikolay Chernyavskiy, 65, who worked at Chernobyl and later volunteered as a liquidator, recalls climbing to the roof of his apartment block in the nearby town of Prypyat to get a look at the plant after the accident.

Telling the story of Chernobyl in numbers 30 years later involves dauntingly large figures and others that are even more vexing because they're still unknown.

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