With the recent news about Japan’s Fukushima I nuclear accident, and radiation being released into the public airspace, I’m reminded of the Chernobyl disaster and its effects on Belarus.
I’ve been to a lot of locales around the world:
- El Salvador
Surprisingly, Belarus may have been the most dangerous place I went to. Not even factoring their dictator, reports are that 60-75% of the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl landed in Belarus.
In the summer of 1995, I spent several weeks in Belarus in the cities of Minsk and Grodno. Grodno was far away from Chernobyl, so it was relatively safe. However, I served many orphans and kids with various sicknesses and defects that were attributed to Chernobyl. This was nine years after the Chernobyl disaster.
I was back in Belarus in the summer of 1998. This time, I was in Minsk. We spent some more time serving at an orphanage where a number of the kids were sick or born with defects. It was blamed on Chernobyl. This was twelve years after the disaster.
Could Chernobyl be an easy excuse? Perhaps. The Chernobyl disaster is considered the worst disaster in nuclear power plant history, the only one that’s classified as a level 7 event. The radiation released from Chernobyl had a much longer life, so people can still be contaminated. Since the contamination is spread out over one’s life, there isn’t some of the apparent sickness, or death, that you’d expect to see. For instance, it’s been suggested that 300-400 more times radiation was released into the atmosphere at Chernobyl than Hiroshima when it was bombed in 1945. However, the radiation exposure at Hiroshima was in a condensed time and why so many more died.
No one really knows for sure just how many deaths can be attributed to the Chernobyl disaster. Areas in Belarus that appeared to safe zones from the radiation have still seen spikes in cancer. Thousands upon thousands of people were affected.
The 90’s in Japan are sometimes referred to as the lost decade. Unfortunately, they could be facing another lost decade now. The surrounding area of Chernobyl is still recovering.
For further reading about Chernobyl and Belarus:
New York Post: The Child Of Chernobyl
BBC News: Belarus cursed by Chernobyl
Chernobyl Pictures, Then And Now
Chernobyl Today: A Creepy Story Told In Pictures
Belarusian Chernobyl Tragedy
Minsk Blocks Chernobyl Children from Getting Treatment Abroad
Chernobyl Children International – Charity continuing to help the children of Belarus and Ukraine that were affected by Chernobyl.