Silence covers 'zone of death'

The area around the stricken nuclear plant at Chernobyl was last night enclosed by a wall of official silence and tight security covering a radius of at least 18 miles.
For an unknown number of the inhabitants of several towns and villages closest to the reactor, and now evacuated, it may [be] the silence of the grave; in the words of a Russian scientist yesterday, this is the "zone of death". Inside that zone is the town of Chernobyl, and the vast nuclear complex at Pripyat, containing four completed reactors, and two under construction. The nuclear park is alongside the Pripyat River, which supplies drinking water to the city of Kiev, capital of the Ukarine, about 60 miles downstream.
To the north stretches the danger zone, licked by the escaping radiation since the disaster began on Saturday. There is the farmland of Belorussiya, and 200 miles north, the city of Minsk.
Last night, as technicians struggled to contain a fire thought to be threatening three other reactors, the achievement was in ruins. Unconfirmed reports spoke of mounting casualties and of a Kiev hospital crammed with victims of radiation sickness. Last night, Chernobyl had become a symbol of all that is frightful and frightening in the modern world of nuclear power.
Even beyond the "zone of death", the silence continued yesterday.
"We knew nothing about it until we heard the BBC World Service news this morning," Ms Sue Parminter, a 26-year-old teacher from Sevenoaks, Kent, told me from Minsk by phone.
An American military attache who was in Kiev until yesterday morning was checked over with a geiger counter at the US embassy in Moscow yesterday, and was found to have a modest dose of radioactivity.
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