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22 April 2000
One of Chernobyl's nuclear reactors is still in operation About 15,000 people were killed and 50,000 left handicapped in the emergency clean-up after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, according to a group representing those who worked in the relief operations.
The number of invalids caused by the radiation has multiplied twelvefold since 1991, says Viacheslav Grishin, president of the Chernobyl League.
The Chernobyl plant was the scene of the world's worst civilian nuclear accident in April 1986 -- when its number four reactor exploded, sending a radioactive cloud across much of Europe.
30 killed immediately 15,000 relief workers killed 50,000 relief workers invalid 5 million exposed to radiation 52,000 fled the area around Chernobyl
The exact number of dead has never been given, but it is estimated that five million people were exposed to radiation in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
About 30 people were killed immediately and thousands were evacuated from the region.
Ukraine's Health Ministry estimates that 3.5 million people, over a third of them children, have suffered illness as a result of the contamination, and the incidence of some cancers is 10 times the national average.
First Deputy Health Minister Olga Bobylyova said: "The health of people affected by the Chernobyl accident is getting worse and worse every year.
"We are very disturbed by these data."
Ms Bobylyova told a news conference that the death rate among workers exposed to radiation while cleaning up Chernobyl has been rising.
She said that the death rate among the "liquidators" -- as the group is known -- was higher than among other people apparently because they are ageing faster.
Ms Bobylyova said most of the deaths were caused by poor blood circulation, cancer, respiratory and digestive diseases and traumas.
She noted that thyroid cancer cases have increased 10 times in Ukraine in general since the accident.
One of Chernobyl's four nuclear reactors is still in operation.