Germans form human chain in nuclear protest
Tens of thousands of Germans joined hands to form a human chain to protest against nuclear energy Saturday, two days before the 24th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine.
"The chain is almost complete," a police spokeswoman in the northern German region of Schleswig-Holstein told AFP.
She estimated that more than 100,000 people took part in the human chain which stretched for 120 kilometres (75 miles) along the Elbe river through the port city of Hamburg. Organisers put the turnout at more than 120,000.
The protest dubbed "Chain reaction -- Stop nuclear energy" was also aimed at opposing proposals by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to delay the closing of the country's 17 nuclear power plants beyond a 2020 target date.
The organisers -- a grouping of environmental, religious, youth, union and political organisations -- called in a statement for the government to "correct its policy in favour of the atom".
They urged Berlin to "definitively" close the nuclear plants in the north at Brunsbuettel and Kruemmel, which have had several breakdowns in recent years.
Demonstrations were also held in other cities around Germany where public opinion is mostly opposed to nuclear energy.
Germany decided in 2000 to mothball its 17 nuclear reactors by 2020, but Merkel's government wants to look at extending the life of some plants, which produce around 30 percent of German power.
The Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred in the early hours of April 26, 1986 when a reactor exploded, contaminating the then Soviet states of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus with fallout which also spread to other parts of Europe.
More than 25,000 people known as "liquidators" -- most of them Ukrainians, Russians and Belarussians -- died after getting the accident under control and constructing a concrete shield over the wreckage, according to Ukrainian official figures.
A United Nations toll published in September 2005 set the number of victims at just 4,000, a figure contested by non-governmental organisations.
© 2010 AFP