I was pleased to read that the three top officials responsible for the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl were sentenced to maximum terms of 10 years in a labor camp {front page, July 30}.

Although the article indicated that 31 persons died and more than 200 suffered acute radiation sickness, I believe that the toll may actually be much higher. My belief is based on recent conversations I had with relatives in northeast Poland near the Soviet border, from where I returned last week. A few examples:

One first cousin and his two sons told me about how it rained ash in Suwalki, a city of 50,000, a couple of days after the disaster and how everyone suffered from fatigue and general malaise for a few days thereafter.

The wife of a second cousin showed me what she called radiation burns on her feet and legs, the result of working in a skirt in the fields during the two weeks following the disaster.

Another second cousin in nearby Rutka-Tartak told me about his feeling nauseous and losing his appetite after working all day on his farm in late April and early May 1986. Since he lives in the countryside without a television or newspapers, he did not learn of the disaster until his sickness had passed. He believes Chernobyl hastened the death of his mother (my first cousin) at age 54 in August 1986. Although she was diagnosed as having tuberculosis shortly before the accident, her quick death only four months later made him suspect the radiation as a major cause.

I pass on these vignettes to The Post and the public because we have not heard any reports about what happened in other Eastern Bloc countries, only about the areas immediately around Chernobyl and Kiev.

JOSEPH SCAFETTA JR.

Alexandria