When a reactor melted down at the Chernobyl power plant on April 26, 1986, it released 400 times more radiation than the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima. The radiation levels at the power plant shot to 300 sieverts, which is deadly after only a minute of exposure. Instead of immediately evacuating the tens of thousands of people being exposed to deadly radiation, authorities in the Soviet Union reportedly tried to cover up the disaster for days. First responders in Chernobyl, including firefighters who rushed into the nuclear blaze to save lives, experienced radiation poisoning that melted their skin.
For the thousands of men, women, and children who lived or worked near the Chernobyl power plant, the disaster destroyed their lives. In the immediate aftermath, men with radiation poisoning vanished while their families wondered where they had gone. Soviet soldiers rounded up dogs to prevent radiation from further spreading. And while more than 100,000 people had to permanently relocate, many snuck back into the deadly exclusion zone, declaring they would rather die than leave their homes.