Today in eco-history: Chernobyl disaster announced to public

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On this day in 1986, continuing high levels of radiation emerging from the Chernobyl disaster led Soviet authorities to publically announce the accident. The nuclear catastrophe had occurred two days prior at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. The resulting explosion caused nuclear particles to spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear accident in history.

The effort to contain the contamination and prevent even larger-scale havoc was largely due to the brave efforts of over 500,000 workers. 31 people died immediately from the accident, and cancers and deformities from the radiation are still being accounted for. The people of the nearby city of Pripyat, which was not immediately evacuated following the explosion, perhaps suffered the most harshly. Today, Pripyat is abandoned, part of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Photo: The Chernobyl plant's nuclear reactor, destroyed after a series of explosions which occurred on Apr. 26. The disaster was officially announced publically on Apr. 28. AP