The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 is considered the worst nuclear accident in history, but new evidence reveals that the damage was far greater than previously thought.
A new Sky TV documentary, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, exposes the grim injuries suffered by rescue workers and the horrific birth defects caused by radiation from the explosion of reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant,
According to official figures, two employees were killed in the initial explosion and 28 others died of acute radiation poisoning.
READ MORE: ‘Suicidal’ Russian Troops Disturb Radioactive Dust in Chernobyl’s ‘Red Forest’
But many more people are thought to have died from the direct effects of the disaster, with some estimates putting the death toll at 985,000.
The number of birth defects caused by the radioactive fallout plume that spread to Wales cannot be calculated.
Babies with patches of ‘shiny’ green skin are shown in the footage obtained by Sky, along with many others dying of incurable cancers which, before the Chernobyl accident, were thought to be incredibly rare.
The documentary also tells the stories of the incredible heroism of the rescue workers sent to deal with the initial explosion and fire.
Many of them were sent into the burning reactor building with little or no protective gear and many of them left horrific scars as a result.
Firefighter Leonid Shavrey told how his younger brother Petr was off duty when the alert was raised.
Petr didn’t have time to stop and pick up gear: “Protection didn’t matter, but time was essential to stop the flames from spreading,” Leonid said.
Petr helped guide the fire trucks around the site, clearing obstacles as they went.
At one point Petr picked up a small metal object that was blocking a road and the skin on his palms peeled off.
Leonid says it was unsafe to use water on the fire because of the danger of the exposed electrical cables, and so instead they fought the fire by throwing sand on it and beating the flames with their canvas pipes.
He says the conditions were impossible: “At the slightest increase in temperature, the bitumen immediately caught fire. If you stepped on it, you couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, it would tear your boots off”.
Deadly radioactive isotopes such as cesium-137, iodine-131 and strontium-90 in the air.Some 600 Soviet pilots risked dangerously high levels of radiation to fly thousands of flights over the reactor n ° 4 in an effort to seal off the source of the toxic cloud.
Shocking footage of an Mi-8′ helicopter crashing into the burning reactor only emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and high-resolution video of the incident is shown in the documentary for the first time.
The Ukrainian government continues to pay benefits to tens of thousands of dependents of men who died in the Chernobyl disaster.
In recent months, Russian troops have again occupied the decommissioned reactor site, their heavy equipment churning up the still radioactive soil of the so-called “Red Forest”.
Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of them have been hospitalized due to exposure to Chernobyl’s radioactive dirt and dust.
36 years later, the grim toll of the disaster continues to rise.