CHERNOBYL, the recent HBO mini-series, has been rated as the best TV series of all time.

Its disturbingly accurate depiction of the 1986 catastrophe - the worst nuclear incident in history which turned large areas of Ukraine into no-go zones - has had viewers gripped for the last month.

Among those was journalist Neil Brandwood who drove to neighbouring Belarussia in 1996 to report on the tenth anniversary of the cataclysmic event.

Because of climactic conditions on the day of the accident, deadly radioactive fallout was blown into Belarus. Some areas of it will be radioactive for 24,000 years, which is the half-life of the highly radioactive material plutonium. A millionth of a gram of plutonium is enough to cause lung cancer.

70 per cent of the total radioactive fallout from the accident descended on nearly one-fourth of the country. The fallout affected more than 2.2 million people, including 500,000 children.

Speaking of his visit, Neil said: “It was a chilling experience. I visited radiation clinics where desperate parents were waiting to find out if their children had a future. Many were suffering from thyroid cancer caused by radioactive iodine from Chernobyl.

“At an orphanage, babies and toddlers with horrific deformities and neurological conditions were just waiting to die.

"Many were blind or had huge tumours growing on their backs. It was a direct consequence of Chernobyl which was responsible for a 250 per cent increase in birth defects.

“My host had a Geiger counter, which was the norm, and while I was there I learned that five of Belarus’s six regions were contaminated.

"Despite this, farmers were forced to continue agricultural production meaning radiation was in the food chain.

“The effects of Chernobyl meant that animals were regularly born with two heads, five legs or four eyes. Others were born with no skin and some were just lumps of jelly-like flesh.”

Neil said: "I doubt any of those toddlers I met in the orphanage lived to see their sixth birthday.

"On the positive side however, the United Nations recently announced a new focus on sustainable development for Belarus. which should help in the long-term."