Irish Aid Convoy Flees Radiation Fire in Chernobyl

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Diarmuid MacDermot, Cork Examiner

Ali Hewson spoke yesterday of her flight from a deadly radioactive cloud near Chernobyl.

Ali was with a convoy bringing aid to the victims of the world's worst ever nuclear accident when fires swept through five abandoned villages near the nuclear plant.

"Five villages were on fire," she said. "It sent radiation levels soaring into the atmosphere. The wind was carrying it south. That's exactly what happened in the first Chernobyl and it turned around and came back up to the north west."

"We got a speeding ticket on our way out. We got out of there as fast as we could," she said. "Had the wind caught up with us we would have been at high risk," she added. "We couldn't do anything until we got back and then we all had showers. It's very basic protection what people have out here!- what we have and that's what we brought with us. We weren't expecting to go into the exclusion zone or anything, or to be in any particularly highly contaminated areas on this trip.

"We were just going into where people are living and where the government permits them to live. We weren't in a highly contaminated zone but we were close to the exclusion zone.

Ali, perhaps best known as the wife of U2's Bono, was travelling with Operation Hope III, a mission of mercy carrying 2 million pounds' worth of equipment and medicine for the people of Belarus and western Russia which suffered some of the worst fallout from the blast. The convoy, consisting of 34 ambulances, two medical cars and four trucks packed with aid left Ireland earlier on this month. The mission was financed by donations from Irish people and was the latest venture to the Chernobyl area by Ali and the Chernobyl Children's Project.

The convoy was organised to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster on April 26, 1986 while the power station originally exploded.

The UN has estimated that at least nine million people were affected in some way by the blast and Ukrainian officials say that 125,000 have already died.

This week's fires started among dried pines and abandoned homes in a village six miles from Chernobyl and quickly spread to the other four villages. Fire-fighters rushed to the scene in an attempt, to prevent the spread of the deadly radioactive particles.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on March 27, 1996 9:54 AM.

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