Belarus is situated east of Poland, north of Ukraine, south of Latvia and Lithuania and west of Russia.
On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the Chernobyl plant, near Pripyat in the Ukraine exploded. Further explosions and the resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. It is widely reported that one hundred times more fallout was released than had been by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The prevailing wind was northerly, thus carrying the escaping radioactivity across the border into Belarus affecting an estimated 23% of its territory, 3,678 towns and 2mn of its 10mn population. Belarus is widely thought to have received around 70% of the fallout. Many areas were then evacuated and there is still a Closed Zone near the border that is uninhabitable.
There are high cancer rates among children, especially those whose parents were exposed to the radiation. Cancer of the thyroid and widespread immune deficiency syndrome, which makes people prone to other diseases, are the most common.
The full extent of the damage is difficult to assess. The effect of Chernobyl is expected to take thousands of years to disappear, with only 8% of the children of Belarus reported as being free from any illness.