Eight boys from Belarus, whose health has been damaged by fall-out from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, have arrived in Wiltshire for a three-week visit designed to boost their immune systems. All the boys are either suffering from leukaemia, or are in remission. They are the latest of 46,000 brought to the UK by the charity Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline, which said the clean air and fresh food should give them an extra 18 months of life.
A survey last month revealed that insect populations around the plant still have not recovered, nearly 23 years after the explosion. A radiation cloud spread over much of Europe, but 70 per cent of it fell on Belarus.
In April 2006, a report from the World Health Organisation predicted up to 9,000 extra cancer deaths from the continuing effects of the fall-out, but some environmental groups claim the real number could be up to 200,000. At a Belarus children’s hospital, one senior doctor claimed that only one baby in four was healthy.
The nearby town of Prypiat, which was home to more than 300,000 people at the time of the disaster, was evacuated and now stands deserted. It is not expected to be fit for human habitation for centuries, but that did not stop looters moving in and removing everything they could from the empty buildings, right down to the toilet seats. For the full story, see A Disastrous History of the World.