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A Visit to Pripyat Hospital

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{Seven in the morning. At seven, they told me he was in the hospital. I rushed over, but there was a police cordon round the hospital, they weren’t letting anyone in. Only the ambulances were let through. The police were warning us not to go near the ambulances. The Geiger counters were going berserk! I wasn’t the only one. All the wives rushed over, everyone whose husband had been at the power plant that night. I ran to look for my friend. She was a doctor at the hospital. I grabbed her by her white coat as she was coming out of an ambulance. ‘Let me in there!’ ‘I can’t! He’s in a terrible state. They all are.’ I wouldn’t let go of her: ‘I just want to look at him.’ ‘All right, then,’ she says, ‘but we’ll have to be quick. Just fifteen or twenty minutes.’ So I saw him. He was all puffed up and swollen. His eyes were almost hidden. ‘He needs milk, lots of it!’ my friend told me. ‘They need to have at least three litres of milk.’ ‘But he doesn’t drink milk.’ ‘Well, he will now.’ Later, lots of the doctors and nurses in the hospital, and especially the orderlies, came down sick. They died. But back then, nobody knew that would happen.} Alexievich, Svetlana. Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future.

On the morning of Saturday 26 April, when Pripyat hospital began filling up with victimes, there had still been no official announcement about the disaster at the Nuclear Power Plant. The hospital complex МСЧ-126 has five buildings of six floors. It was built to serve the population of Pripyat, primarily Power Plant workers and their families and it could accommodate 410 patients and 3 clinics. The letters on the roof of the hospital says “Здоров’я народу – багатство країни” or “health of the people – riches of the country”. In theory, anyone exposed to radiation at the Power Plant should have been washed and dressed with uncontaminated clothing at the build, before to arrival at the hospital. That didn’t happen and by 10am in the morning of 26 April 108 firefighters and plant workers had been brought directly to the hospital. After the accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness (ARS), of whom according to World Health Organisation’s 2006 report, 28 died in the first three months, mostly fireman and rescue workers. The majority of those in a critical condition were transferred to a specialist hospital in Moscow.

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