- Title: Tree decorated with memories in ghost town of Prypyat near Chernobyl
- Date: 26th December 2019
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) FORMER CHERNOBYL NUCLEAR POWER PLANT EMPLOYEE AND PRYPYAT RESIDENT, VERA (SURNAME NOT GIVEN) SAYING: "We remained in Prypyat (after the reactor exploded). I was still doing shopping; my daughter with her husband went to watch the fire from the nine-storey building near the roundabout. Together with my son-in-law. They left their two-month-old daughter downstairs in a baby carriage and went to the rooftop to watch the fire. And by that time, pieces of graphite (from reactor) were already on the roof and balconies of those buildings."
- Embargoed: 9th January 2020 10:34
- Keywords: Chernobyl Christmas New Year New Year tree Prypyat Ukraine accident nuclear disaster residents
- Location: PRYPYAT, UKRAINE
- City: PRYPYAT, UKRAINE
- Country: Ukraine
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents
- Reuters ID: LVA002BBM2Z3T
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A New Year tree was installed on Wednesday (December 25) on the main square of the abandoned town of Prypyat in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone for the first time since the April 1986 nuclear explosion.
Instead of traditional decorations, former residents of the town hung photographs on the trees branches, recalling happier times before their evacuation as the disaster unfolded.
Most of the residents recalled the day of April 26, 1986, when a botched test at reactor number 4 at the Soviet plant sent clouds of nuclear material billowing across Europe and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
Vera, a former resident who also worked at the power plant, said she remembered her daughter going to watch the flames from the rooftop of a building as pieces of graphite from the burning building began to fall.
Oleksandr Demidov, who used to work as a DJ in a Prypyat music hall, called for the city to be preserved as a warning of the potential risks of nuclear power.
The disaster and the government's handling of it - the evacuation order only came 36 hours after the accident - highlighted the shortcomings of the Soviet system with its unaccountable bureaucrats and entrenched culture of secrecy.
Thirty-one plant workers and firemen died in the immediate aftermath of the accident, mostly from acute radiation sickness.
Thousands more later succumbed to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, although the total death toll and long-term health effects remain a subject of intense debate.
In Ukraine and other majority-Orthodox countries New Year is celebrated first as Christmas celebrations fall in early January. As in other countries spruce trees are decorated during December and called New Year trees rather than Christmas trees.
(Production: Sergiy Karazy, Margaryta Chornokondratenko)
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