Thousands Battle A-Fire; Exodus From Kiev Grows : 3rd Death Reported in Disaster

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From Times Wire Services

Thousands of Soviet emergency workers continued to battle to contain the fire at the Chernobyl nuclear plant today, 12 days after an explosion triggered a devastating accident. Droves of Kiev residents fearing radiation sought to leave the Ukrainian capital by plane, train, bus and car as a third person was reported dead in the disaster.

The Communist Party newspaper Pravda, confirming that thousands were fighting the fire, said, “Regrettably the struggle . . . is not finished.” A senior Western diplomat said, “They have a hell of a problem still.”

West German scientists said the Soviets may already be facing a “China Syndrome” with the core of the Chernobyl plant melting through the concrete floor and threatening radioactive contamination of the nearby ground water supply.


Officials Order Evacuation

The Western diplomat also said 30,000 people from the town of Chernobyl, 12 miles from the stricken power plant, were not evacuated until two top Soviet officials visited the area last Friday--nearly a week after the accident.

Soviet authorities have said about 49,000 people from four settlements around the plant were evacuated. Officials said Tuesday that about 25,000 residents were removed from Pripyat more than 36 hours after the disaster.

The Yugoslavian news agency Tanjug said a Soviet citizen died this morning in a Kiev hospital. Soviet officials have said two people died and 204 were injured.

The Tanjug report from Moscow said 200 people have been transported to Moscow hospitals for treatment. It said six patients were in critical condition and have received transplants of bone marrow donated by their parents.

Residents Leave Kiev

The official press agency Tass acknowledged that anxious residents of Kiev, 60 miles south of Chernobyl, were moving out of the Ukrainian capital.

Hundreds continued leaving today, and the government newspaper Izvestia said everyone departing Kiev was being checked for radiation at airports, bus and railway stations.


Izvestia said children remaining in Kiev were being kept indoors during break times at school and the authorities were considering moving up the start of the summer holidays.

The sale of ice cream, cakes and drinks on the streets was banned, it said.

Pravda said that helicopters were still dropping sand on the damaged reactor to provide greater protection from its nuclear core.

Thousands in Battle

“No, regrettably the struggle with it is not finished. It is continuing and thousands of people are conducting it with even greater energy than yesterday,” Pravda said.

Pravda reporters described traveling to the plant in a boat that stopped regularly to test water samples in the Kiev reservoir for radioactivity.

They saw a helicopter fly on a mission to the station, dropping a load of sand, clay, lead and other materials on to its damaged fourth reactor.

They quoted Yevgeny Velikhov, one of the country’s top scientists, as saying emergency workers were still carrying out an “echelon defense” operation.


“The main task is to ensure people’s safety,” he said. “We are mounting an offensive against the reactor. We are working not only alongside it but under it. . . . “

Thomas Roser, director of West Germany’s nuclear power industry organization, said in Washington today that a Soviet representative had asked him how to prevent “a hot molten mass” from melting through the concrete foundation.

While Roser said the Soviets did not know whether a “melt-through” had already occurred, other German scientists said they believed the core may have burned through the concrete floor in the first few hours after the accident.

Soviets seeking Common Market food? Story on Page 2.