20 Years Ago in TIME

The ultimate toll of Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident, is still unclear. The World Health Organization estimates that 9,700 people will eventually die of the disaster's aftereffects, but Greenpeace last week predicted the total will be nine times higher.

Information gathered from satellite photos suggested a hellish scene at the accident site. All evidence pointed to a nuclear reactor fire burning out of control in the gentle, rolling Ukrainian countryside ... The most frightening part of the nuclear accident was the radiation that spewed from the reactor and then was carried by winds on its silent, deadly path. At distances...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!