Two New Graves Found, With Dates After Last Official Toll
MOSCOW (AP) _ Two new graves were found today in a cemetery section reserved for Chernobyl victims, indicating that the worst nuclear accident in history had claimed two more lives since the government issued its last official death toll of 28.
The graves were found with those of 23 other Chernobyl victims in a special area of Mitinskoye Cemetery, a half-hour drive from the center of Moscow near the village of Mitino.
The ruling Politburo said July 19 that 28 people had died from the April 26 accident, including two killed in the initial explosion and 26 who died later of burns, radiation sickness and other injuries. It said 30 other people were in critical condition.
But the two new graves bore white cards indicating the victims had died since the Politburo statement was issued.
The cards identified the victims as A.V. Novik, who died July 29, and Y.A. Vershinin, who died July 23.
It did not give their cause of death, but the graves were located in the same two rows as those of 23 other Chernobyl victims.
The older graves are topped with marble headstones with gold inscriptions. A cemetery official told The Associated Press in late June that they were the graves of Chernobyl victims. Some of the names on the older graves also were given in the official media as Chernobyl victims.
It was impossible to verify officially whether Novik and Vershinin also died from injuries suffered in the nuclear accident.
The government has said that Chernobyl plant workers were conducting an experiment without proper precautions when a chemical explosion occurred at the facility 80 miles north of Kiev in the Ukraine. The explosion triggered a fire and released a radioactive cloud that spread over Europe and eventually much of the world.
In Tel Aviv, American Dr. Robert Gale, who helped treat Chernobyl victims, told The Associated Press that when he last saw patients in Moscow, only two of the survivors seemed likely to die.
Gale flew to Kiev on July 23 and returned to Moscow for a day before he left for Israel on Friday. He said in Tel Aviv that the new graves at Mitinskoye were almost certainly the men he feared would die.
″I doubt very much there will be any more deaths,″ he said. ″I am praying there will be no more deaths.″
Gale said only 30 of the 500 initial victims remained in hospitals and nearly all were expected to survive.
One of the bodies of the Chernobyl victims has never been recovered, that of a plant worker who was crushed by falling debris and died inside the shattered reactor building. It is not known where the other Chernobyl victims are buried.
Both of the new graves were heaped with identical piles of flowers and wreathes bearing inscriptions of mourning.
A small crowd ebbed and flowed in front of the double row of tombstones today.
″Who are these people? From Afghanistan?″ asked one man.
″No, they’re from Chernobyl,″ responded another.
An elderly woman who passed along with flowers for another grave stopped for a moment, looked somberly at the tombstones and said, ″How sad.″