A crash building program is under way in the Ukraine to house Chernobyl residents at a safe distance from the damaged nuclear reactor, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda reported today. Similar projects have begun in the neighboring republic of Byelorussia, the paper said.
The scope of the Ukrainian effort, involving 50,000 construction workers, indicates that Soviet authorities have decided it will be a long time before people can live again in close range of the plant.
An estimated 92,000 people were evacuated from an 18-mile danger zone around the reactor in the first weeks after the accident.
Two villages have recently been resettled.
"But the decision for the return of residents of other villages to their homes in the 18-mile zone, including Chernobyl, will be made after all steps are taken to guarantee the complete safety of the people," Pravda said today.
A new settlement, called Green Cape, will be built on the banks of the Kiev water reservoir to house about 10,000 workers, Pravda said. Their families will continue to live in Chernogor or Kiev, the Ukrainian capital 80 miles to the south.
The newspaper gave no indication how long these arrangements would last, saying only that workers would work in shifts to have time with their families. "A good thing," the paper said, "that the distance is not great."
Pravda said the new town, which will have shops, restaurants, a movie theater and a culture center, will "to some degree repeat the layout of Pripyat," the town closest to the Chernobyl station and the one that housed most of its workers. By October, 7,250 houses and 200 consumer facilites will be built for evacuated people around Kiev and Zhitomir, 72 miles west.
Today's Pravda also said that the level of radiation is still higher than normal in the center of the Gomel region in Byelorussia.
Meanwhile, U.S. bone marrow specialist Dr. Robert Gale, after examining Chernobyl patients under treatment here, said in an interview that two or three remain in life-threatening condition.
Gale arrived here last week to follow up the treatment of radiation victims he started in May. After visiting a Moscow hospital where many Chernobyl survivors remain hospitalized, he said, "Most are doing very well. A few are in complex, if not critical, condition."
Soviet officials Saturday put the Chernobyl death toll at 28, and Gale said it "shouldn't rise above 30 or 31." Of the 203 victims hospitalized after the accident, 30 are still in intensive care, they said.
Gale said he also discussed with Soviet Health Ministry officials the long-term follow-up work on the 100,000 potential victims of the accident and suggested ways in which western doctors could assist in analyzing the effects of radiation on the population in the area surrounding Chernobyl.