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20,000 More Evacuated From South Byelorussia

Times Staff Writer

Twenty thousand more people in the southern part of the Republic of Byelorussia have been evacuated to avoid potential danger to their health from the radiation from Chernobyl, Soviet officials said Thursday.

The officials also disclosed at a news conference that the death toll from the world’s worst nuclear accident April 26 climbed by one, to 26. Another 10 people are in critical condition, they said.

While many people have been returned to their homes within the Chernobyl reactor danger zone after decontamination measures were completed, they said, thousands of others were recently moved 25 miles or more from their homes to temporary quarters.

Some Permanently Resettled

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In some cases, the officials disclosed, people who once lived inside the danger zone are being permanently resettled in nearby cities. It is possible, they added, that some parts of the area within a 19-mile radius of the damaged Chernobyl reactor may never be habitable again.

The disclosures came one day after the Communist Party newspaper Pravda reported that 60,000 children in Byelorussia had been evacuated earlier when radiation hot spots were discovered outside of the Chernobyl danger zone.

While declining to give a cause of the accident, one official said the government commission investigating the accident would make its report public in a matter of days.

Yuri P. Batalin, a deputy premier, said the radiation level around the damaged reactor is still “very high” more than a month after the accident.

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But work is under way to bury the reactor in a tomb of reinforced concrete and steel to prevent future radiation leaks, he said.

Protecting Water Supply

Hundreds of workers will be deployed around the clock to complete the work and take steps to prevent the “hot” reactor from coming into contact with ground water that might contaminate the public water supply, he added.

Yuri Israel, chairman of the government’s weather forecasting service, said the radiation situation around the reactor was stabilized.

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Israel said the radioactive emissions from Chernobyl equaled 1% to 3% of the total radioactivity in the reactor. Although he said the amount was not significant, he repeatedly refused to divulge the quantity of radioactive materials released into the atmosphere, a figure of keen interest to neighboring nations affected by the fallout from Chernobyl.

Israel acknowledged there were “a lot of contaminated spots” outside the original danger zone, established within a radius of 30 kilometers from the disaster site, that required additional emergency measures in recent days.

Report Due Soon

A panel of Soviet experts said they still could not explain why the accident occurred. But they told the news conference that the report of a government commission investigating the tragedy would be made public soon.

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