20 Years Ago This Month
From the outset, Prianichnikov suspected the accident was catastrophic, but without a dosimeter he found it hard to convince his neighbours of such a heretical idea: 'People wouldn't believe me - and they could give you eight years in prison for going around saying things like that.' When he finally got through to his boss at the station, he was told that an exercise was being conducted. But by the time the sunbathers had been hospitalised with nausea and vomiting, Prianichnikov had shut his wife and daughter indoors, and had them packed and ready to leave. That night, from the sixth-floor balcony of the flat, they watched yellow and green flames flare from the torn ruins of Reactor No 4.
On Sunday the 27th, Pripyat was finally evacuated. The population went quickly and calmly under the eyes of the militia, but were forced to leave their pets behind. Their coats hopelessly irradiated, many dogs ran after the buses as far as they could, but eventually fell back to the town, where they began to turn feral. A group of local hunters with shotguns was sent in to shoot the animals. By 29 April, the streets of Pripyat were littered with their radioactive corpses.
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