When the No. 4 reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986, a colossal meltdown began. At the time, the people living near Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine, including first responders to the scene, didn't know they were experiencing a life-changing event. The effects of the Chernobyl disaster reverberated worldwide, with long-term repercussions for wildlife, humans, and the environment.
Immediately following the disaster, the Soviet government downplayed the dangers of the large amount of radiation the explosion and subsequent fire released, which led to widespread misinformation - or no information at all. The rest of the world soon discovered the severity of the disaster at Chernobyl. But for those closest to the danger, the news came far too late. Decades after the incident, although the area has come back to life in some ways, harmful effects persist.
Those who worked at the nuclear plant or lived in the surrounding areas tell haunting tales about what it was like in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. Many of them shared their recollections in the book Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich.