Twenty years ago -- on April 26, 1986 -- the biggest nuclear disaster happened in Chernobyl, in what was then the Soviet Union, when a chain reaction went out of control and blew the lid off the reactor. The fallout has been catastrophic, with the resulting radioactivity contaminating eastern and western Europe, Scandinavia, the UK and the US. Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine, where the nuclear facility was located, were most heavily contaminated.

Published: Monday 15 May 2006


Down to Earth

Veznova, Belarus

Natasha Popova, 12, and Vadim Kuleshov, 8. Natasha was born with microcephaly; her head is too small. Vadim has a bone disease and is also mentally retarded
Down to EarthGomel, Belarus
Annya Pesenko has a brain tumour. She was born in Zakoptye, a village which was heavily contaminated, and ultimately evacuated and destroyed. The brain tumour appeared when she was four. Now at 15, Annya has a brain tumour for the second time. Annya gets her daily medication injected
Down to Earth

Institute for Endocrinology in Kiev, Ukraine

Elena Sergeevna Gurok, 19, from the Chernygiv region, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and again in 2005. Thyroid cancer amongst women has taken on epidemic proportions in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia

Down to Earth

Kiev, Ukraine

Galina Miroshnichenko, 34, has thyroid cancer

Down to EarthThyroid Cancer Institute in Kiev, Ukraine
Nila Bandarenko from Zhytomir ready for her third operation of the thyroid gland. Surgeon Igor Komisarenko says after her second operation “microscopic particles of the cancer got into her blood vessels and started growing there”. Bandarenko also has kidney cancer
Down to EarthNarodichi district, Ukraine
A Sunday afternoon football match between Zone-2 and Zone-3. Zone-2 is more polluted, people can stay if they wish, but it is recommended that they leave. Zone-1 is closed territory. Zone-3 won the match
Down to EarthDutch photographer Robert Knoth has been documenting the effects of Chernobyl for the past 15 years in areas in the former Soviet Union. An exhibition of his photographs is being mounted in 35 cities around the world
Down to EarthGomel, Belarus
Alexandra Prokopenko, 9, with her father Vitaly. Alexandra has hydrocephalus. Vitaly has quit his job. He is the only one strong enough to hold Alexandra when she sits up to eat

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