A report says more than 93,000 people could die as a result of the Chornobyl explosion. (Associated Press)

Bells tolled and sirens blared as people across Ukraine observed a minute of silence Wednesday to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster.

The ceremony took place at 1:23 a.m. local time in Ukraine, the exact moment that Reactor 4 exploded at the power station on April 26, 1986.

The explosion sent a plume of radioactive dust across the entire Northern Hemisphere. The contamination drifted across Europe and affected the United States and Canada.

The accumulation and the impact of the radioactivity released from the catastrophe poisoned land, air and animals.


A Chornobyl victim's widow arranges photos in Kiev on Wednesday of men who were killed in the nuclear plant's cleanup operations. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press)

Mykolo Popovich, who had to leave his home near the Chornobyl plant after the disaster, said life has never been the same.

"The accident has shattered my life," he told CBC News.

"Before, my life was going well, my family was good," he said. "But the accident, it threw all into disarray."

Near the plant, people slowly marched through the streets of Slavutych, a town built after the disaster to house Chornobyl workers.

Each person that marched carried a candle and red carnations.

In the capital Kiev, bells tolled 20 times to mark the anniversary, and President Viktor Yuschenko laid a wreath to remember those who died.

Protest in Moscow

In Moscow, police in Red Square dragged away anti-nuclear protesters. Thirteen people had chained themselves to the railings around St. Basil's Cathedral.

Last week, a new international report said more than 93,000 people could still die as a result of the accident.

That will be on top of the estimated 200,000 deaths that have already occurred.

A Greenpeace report called the continuing fallout from Chornobyl a "general crisis."

Researchers there believe that of the two billion people affected by the Chornobyl disaster worldwide, an estimated 270,000 will develop cancer and 93,000 will die.

The report says that in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, the disaster has already triggered widespread death from medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases linked to the disaster.