Everyone is talking about HBO’s Chernobyl. It’s good to know that Norfolk played its part
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Nick Conrad recalls the part Norfolk has played in helping the children of Chernobyl
It's a disaster that shocked the world 33 years ago, but the effect of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion is still being felt to this day. For many the full story of what happened is only now being told, in large part thanks to a hit TV series. The top rated show, which concluded this week, details the horrific aftermath of the accident. The gritty HBO production has clearly stirred emotions.
It has also heightened my interest in what happened to those who lived through these events and their offspring. Sadly, three decades isn't enough to cleanse the locality of toxic radiation, and the legacy of the meltdown has repercussions to this day.
It's estimated that more than 93,000 deaths can be attributed, in part or entirely, to Reactor Number 4 exploding. No surprise considering that 400 times more radiation was emitted than by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Decontamination work began immediately after the accident. An exclusion zone was created around the plant, and more than 350,000 people were evacuated from the area.They never returned. Severe restrictions on permanent human settlement are still in place today.
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This week I was delighted to hear about the excellent work that Norfolk families have been doing to support those affected by the tragedy. A group of children from the fallout zone in Belarus are currently spending four weeks in Norfolk. It's amazing to think that just a short break in this county could add years to their lives. I hugely applaud charities like Chernobyl Children's Lifeline who invite youngsters to this country to give their little bodies a rest from the effects of the radiation.
The charity has facilitated trips for over 46,000 children since they started in 1992. My BBC Radio Norfolk Breakfast Show this week featured two of the children who are enjoying a short stay in our county. It was heart-warming to hear each child talk about the fun they've had in the UK and how stimulating the trip has been.
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The impact of Chernobyl, more than 30 years on, is a constant reminder of how fragile and precarious life has become. This was one of the biggest catastrophes of the 20th century. Historically concealed, metaphorically and now literally, behind an 'iron curtain' it was and still could be easy to forget the human impact. I'm so pleased we haven't. The events of that fateful day will poison the environment and affect the genetics of those who live there for many more decades.
I accept it's hard for the rest of the world to imagine the devastation this disaster has visited on the people who live in this region. Because of the unprecedented scale of the accident, even scientists and subject experts can't predict what the future holds for those who live in the shadow of Chernobyl.
I'm pleased that the producers of this HBO mini-series didn't sanitize the disaster. Yes, the purists will question the overinflated narrative and characters. However, none of this really matters. The story gets at the basic truth — Chernobyl was more about lies, deceit and a rotting political system and the impact the disaster has on the poor everyday population.
How heartening that we are sharing the clean air we take for granted with those whose lives have been blighted by an event many years before they were born.