Hero Chernobyl rescue worker who helped prevent nuclear apocalypse dies of Covid

A Chernobyl rescue worker who endured lethal radiation levels to contain the nuclear disaster has died from coronavirus.

General Nikolai Antoshkin died on Sunday 24th January after he contracted Covid in his home country of Russia.

The 78-year-old had suffered what was described as a "difficult illness" following his coronavirus diagnosis, the New York Times reported.

Mr Antoshkin had a three-decade-long career in the Soviet air force during which he commanded an operation to seal off the number 4 reactor at the Chernobyl power station after it exploded in 1986.

Following the explosion, Mr Antoshkin instructed a fleet of 100 helicopters to smother the exposed core of the reactor with sand, boron and other materials, in a bid to stem the flow of radiation leaking out.

It has been reported that when the general first flew over the exposed reactor, he felt a tickle in his throat and had an overwhelming urge to vomit.

He proceeded to drop over 5,000 tonnes of material on the reactor in the space of two weeks, and his team managed to extinguish the raging fire at the site.

During the mission, one helicopter crashed after it hit a crane, and the other helicopters are understood to have been so radioactive after they were abandoned, with others buried.

He also helped to evacuate more than 100,000 people within a 20-mile radius and implemented the exclusion zone, which is still in place today.

The disaster killed two reactor employees and hospitalised a further 134 who had acute radiation poisoning.

Of the 134, 28 people died and another 14 succumbed to suspected radiation-induced cancer in the years that followed the tragedy.

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