MOSCOW – Ukraine honored the Chernobyl liquidators on Sunday, 34 years after the worst nuclear tragedy in history.
Ukrainian Emergency Services Chief, Mykola Chechotkin, remembered the 530,000 liquidators of Chernobyl, recovery operation workers who worked tirelessly after the accident to put out the fires and clean up the toxic debris.
“It is our sacred duty to remember all the liquidators of the Chernobyl accident. We remember everyone by name, both those who left for eternity, and those with whom we have the honor to live and work together,” he said in a statement.
Chechotkin said “the Chernobyl accident radically changed the course of human life in minutes, set the destiny of millions of Ukrainians on fire and placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of our people.”
April 26 is “a day to remember the greatest human-made disaster and honor everyone involved in alleviating the consequences of the Chernobyl accident.”
The Emergencies head said the catastrophic event was “a symbol of the boundless courage of many thousands” of Ukrainians.
“The pain of Chernobyl echoed in the hearts of all Ukrainians, leaving forever the feat of the liquidators etched in our memories,” Chechotkin added.
The anniversary comes as emergency services have been grappling with fires in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, coming dangerously close to the nuclear power plant, for three weeks.
Even though the main blaze has been extinguished, firefighters continue to fight smaller fires still burning in the exclusion zone in the Lubianski, Parishivski, Detektivski and Denisovsky forest parks.
The blaze at one point reached the abandoned city of Pripyat, where the families of the plant operators lived when the fourth reactor broke down on April 26, 1986.
“The main efforts are aimed at smothering two sources of ignition of stumps, remains of logs and peat in the areas where the fires were previously extinguished. We have 150 people and 250 specialized teams, including two helicopters, participating in these tasks,” Emergency Services sources said.
Authorities have confirmed there is no risk and radiation levels remain normal.
The fire in the Chernobyl exclusion zone broke out on April 4 in an area of 20 hectares which soon grew to 35 hectares due to strong winds.
Although firefighters have failed to put out the fire entirely, they have prevented it from reaching the plant itself and the warehouses with radioactive waste.
Initially, authorities put the fire down to an unusually warm winter, with little snow, but later police arrested two people suspected of having caused the fire.
The explosion at Chernobyl was the equivalent to 500 atomic bombs like the one launched in Hiroshima, according to official evaluations.
Radiation from the disaster continues to affect thousands of inhabitants in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, where 70 percent of the 200,000 square kilometers of contaminated land is located.