Chernobyl kids visit port

TWO youngsters from a land-locked country which was caught up in a nuclear disaster enjoyed a special visit to see the operations at Britain's biggest container port.

TWO youngsters from a land-locked country which was caught up in a nuclear disaster enjoyed a special visit to see the operations at Britain's biggest container port.

The two boys made their visit during a holiday organised by the Chernobyl Children's Project (UK).

They enjoyed a full day out at the Felixstowe port - including having a go on the crane simulator used to train drivers of the high-rise quayside cranes, where they turned out to have a real flair for crane driving, in spite of the language difficulties!

They also enjoyed a tour of the port, met staff at the Fire and Ambulance Station, with the grand finale a visit to the three-month-old vessel Xin Beijing, one of the largest container ships in the world.

The captain and crew were - luckily enough - from Ukraine, and able to give the excited youngsters a running commentary in their own language.

At the end of the visit, the boys were presented with certificates for their efforts on the crane simulator, model container ships and other mementoes to commemorate their time at the UK's top port.

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Port public relations manager Rachael Jackson said the two boys, Sasha Mitroshin , 14, and Artsiom Karpchenko , 12, from Belarus, had a thoroughly enjoyable day.

“We were taken a bit by surprise when they requested to visit Felixstowe and see the workings of the UK's busiest port because Belarus - between Russia and Poland - is land-locked!” she said.

“But we were more than happy to help and arrange a really special day for them.

“Sasha and Artsiom are two of over a million children at risk of developing cancer or other serious illness because of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, which happened in the small Soviet country over 20 years ago.”

The nuclear accident happened on April 26, 1986, when there was an explosion at the power plant and many tons of radioactive material was thrown into the air.

A quarter of the country's best farmlands and forests have been poisoned for hundreds of years by caesium 137 and strontium 90. Where there is plutonium, the land will be uninhabitable forever. Hundreds of towns and villages were evacuated, many of them buried and wiped off the map.

Within five years of the accident, the incidence of thyroid cancer among the children of southern Belarus had increased by more than 100 times, due to the large amounts of radioactive iodine they ingested.

There have been rises in many other types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, ailments of the digestive system and birth defects, and there are great fears for future generations.

The Chernobyl Children's Project (UK) charity arranges holidays abroad for children from the affected area, in order to help boost their immune systems and increase their resistance to serious disease.

Anyone who would like to know more about the charity should contact Christopher and Stephanie Woodhouse on 01245 361361 - they are willing to give talks to groups about their work and the ongoing problems of Chernobyl.

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