Angry Long Islanders Head for Home
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) _ Some American tourists who unknowingly came within 80 miles of the crippled Chernobyl nuclear plant were angry about Soviet secrecy as they arrived in Finland on Thursday.
″They could have told us about the accident,″ said James Tarrou of Wantagh, the tour leader, in a telephone interview from Turku, Finland. ″They deliberately avoided it.″
The 11 adults and 20 students from Garden City and Roslyn high schools on Long Island were tested for radiation upon their arrival by the Finnish Center for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety. Jaimie Carter, 38, of Glen Cove, one of the travelers, said the readings on bodies, clothes and luggage were slightly higher than normal but well within the safe range and lower than outside in the streets of Turku.
Another group of 37 high school students and five adults from New York’s Rockland County returned home Thursday and were found to have insignificant radiation readings on the soles of their shoes.
″They’re in great shape,″ said Charlie Meinhold, director of the Safety and Environmental Protection division of Brookhaven National Laboratories on Long Island.
″This indicates they had walked where there had been some fallout of some sort or another. It constitutes dirty shoes. It doesn’t pose a hazard since children don’t eat off the bottom of their shoes.″
Meanwhile, one group of New Hampshire students cut short its trip to the Soviet Union but another planned to stick to its schedule.
Six students and two chaperones from a Peterboro, N.H., group were to leave Leningrad on Thursday, three days early, said Francis Khouw, whose wife Eileen and 14-year-old daughter Larissa were on the tour.
A group of 17 students and about 13 adults from Pembroke Academy also was in Leningrad on Thursday and planned to return to the United States on Friday as scheduled, Pembroke Superintendent George Blaisdell said Thursday.
″They felt they were quite some distance from it,″ Blaisdell said. ″They observed life going on as usual.″
Tarrou said his group learned the scope of the disaster in the Ukraine when it arrived in Finland.
″I was amazed at the immensity of the problem,″ Tarrou said. ″The whole world knew of a major crisis and we knew very little about it. That’s the worst part of our trip for my group.″
The group spent three days in Kiev, arriving after the accident but before it was detected in the West. Another group of 18 Long Island residents, including eight high school students, also stayed in Kiev three days. They decided to continue their trip and return as planned on Sunday.
Tarrou said his group learned about the accident when members of the tour telephoned home Monday.
He confronted his Soviet guide but ″they assured us nothing serious was going on.″
Tarrou said the Soviet tour guide eventually told him of the two deaths reported by the government. However, he said there was panic within his group.
″We’re glad we’re here and headed home,″ Tarrou said. ″It’s been a good experience. They learned much more than they bargained for.″