Soviets Triple Injury Toll From Chernobyl --1,000 Were Hurt
The Soviet news agency Novosti today indicated that 1,000 people were injured in the Chernobyl nuclear accident, more than three times the previous official figure.
The report, distributed to Western news agencies, was the first Soviet account to refer to so many casualties. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev said on May 14 that 299 people were hospitalized because of the April 26 explosion, fire and radiation release at the Ukrainian power plant.
Soviet officials have said since then that 19 people have died as a result of the accident, but recent official statements have not dealt with the total number of injured.
Novosti said the national centralized health service network responded to the accident quickly and set up a team to screen the injured.
“Four hours after the disaster, a special medical team was ready to fly from Moscow to the nuclear power station. Within 24 hours, they selected the hundred most serious cases out of a thousand,” Novosti said.
The news agency also indicated that evacuees from the 18-mile danger zone around the plant were among the injured. “The third and last batch of patients now treated in Moscow are from among the evacuees,” Novosti said.
Previous reports have suggested that only firefighters and plant workers suffered harmful radiation doses.
Radio Moscow said two weeks ago that all 92,000 evacuees had been examined by doctors and none was found to suffer from radiation-related illnesses.
Seriously Affected Died
Novosti also carried an interview with Dr. Angelina Guskova, the chief radiologist of Moscow’s hospital No. 6 where those most seriously injured have been taken for treatment.
“Those whose entire organisms and vast skin areas were affected are no more,” she said. “They held out longer than the world could expect with the doses they had received.” She did not specify how many people have died.
On Tuesday, the radiologist was quoted by the government newspaper Izvestia as saying 200 people were admitted to the hospital after the accident and that about 70 later were discharged. She indicated another 70 to 80 people were suffering from serious radiation poisoning.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking Soviet official said today a special government commission and nuclear scientists will report on the cause of the accident in four to six weeks.
The official, Lev Tolkunov, chairman of the House of Union, said the report will be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
“It is already clear that the accident was the result of a combination of a factors that came together,” Tolkunov told reporters in Bonn. “The exact knowledge of the cause and results of the power plant disaster are not only of interest to the Soviet Union, but to all countries that are working on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
Also today, a Swedish scientist said the stricken Chernobyl plant had been leaking small amounts of radioactivity ever since it was started up in November, 1983.