Chernobyl kids coming to Cookstown for vacation, 30 years after disaster

Pictured at their most recent meeting of the Chernobyl Children Appeal (NI) in The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown are (l-r): Deirdre Keenan, Aislinn McKiernan, Seamus Hynds, Mary Conway, Maire ONeill, Rosemary ODonnell and Malachy Mullan
Pictured at their most recent meeting of the Chernobyl Children Appeal (NI) in The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown are (l-r): Deirdre Keenan, Aislinn McKiernan, Seamus Hynds, Mary Conway, Maire ONeill, Rosemary ODonnell and Malachy Mullan

Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat, in Ukraine and a local group in Cookstown are continuing to help the children affected.

The explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe. During the accident itself, 31 people died, while radiation related illnesses have impacted on hundreds of thousands of people since.

30 years on and scientists reckon that contamination from the disaster will exist for 300 years with people living in the surrounding areas likely to suffer.

Two million people in Belarus, for example, of which 500,000 are children still live in contaminated zones.

Since the disaster, the Chernobyl Children Appeal (NI) group have been bringing children from the contaminated areas to these shores for a three week holiday each summer.

The short break here can impact significantly on the children’s health.

The local Cookstown group said they wanted to mark the 30th anniversary, by raising awareness of the disaster and they are currently arranging for 10 children from Belarus to stay with families in the area this July.

They have organised a number of fundraising events to support the venture including raffles, school bring and buy sales, non-uniform days, street collections and sponsored runs/cycles.