The cans in the market suddenly stopped having labels. I don't think it was because they ran out of paper.
The first men on the scene were from Pripyat's own fire brigade. It wasn't even 02.00 in the morning, and they were given no indication that they were facing a far greater threat than an ordinary fire. Multiple fire brigades from the entire region arrived to try and extinguish the inferno, but all were forced to leave and seek medical attention after burns started appearing on their faces and hands. These were caused by beta radiation, but when they arrived at Pripyat's hospital the doctors thought they'd been poisoned by gas and gave them the wrong treatment. After a few hours, they were flown out of Pripyat and sent to Hospital #6 in Moscow, a special facility for radiology. After their first day there, they started to feel sick, and conditions deteriorated rapidly for them. All of them had received at least twice the lethal dose of radiation (400 roentgens or 300 RADs), and within fourteen days all had died of accute radiation poisoning.
It took nine days to extinguish the fire at the reactor. Officers in the Soviet Air Force flew helicopters pulled from Afghanistan and dropped tonnes upon tonnes of sand, dolomite, lead and concrete into the crater before the fire was finally put out. Some of the pilots knew about radiation, and they lined their seats with lead and wore lead covers over their flak-vests. Unfortunately for them, there was no way to tell if they were over the reactor other than sticking their heads out of the windows and looking. Radiation would have bombarded their skulls, and smoke from the fire (which was filled with cesium-137 and strontium-90) would fill the cabin, which they would then breathe in. On top of this, since they were directly in the path of the radiation and less than a kilometer above the epicenter, even the lead would not have been enough to stop the flood of gamma and X-ray radiation. Many of the pilots died of accute radiation poisoning, but some survived long enough to perish from cancer later on.
After the helicopter pilots had finished their work for dumping materials into the smoldering wreckage, many ground units were brought in to drive construction vehicles and push waste that had been flung into a pile to be buried in the core. As well as the operation of vehicles and cranes, troopers were sent onto the roof of the third reactor with shovels and wheelbarrows to scoop up the radioactive graphite chunks and dump them back into the crater. They worked like this for several days in ordinary army uniforms with thin lead plates tied to their bodies with twine and rope. Some received goggles and respirators, even gas masks, but many lacked even this basic protection and wore surgical masks and cloths over their mouths. Because of their lead coverings, most did not die immediately, but rather many years later from various forms of cancer.
Before the sarcophagus was constructed, a problem suddenly arose: underneath the reactor was several pools of water that had been designed as one of the safety feature. Due to the degree of the accident, however, they were now a major hazard - the core of the reactor was no longer burning, but it was still so hot that it might have cracked the "floor" of the containment vessel and molton nuclear material would be allowed to leak through. If it came into contact with the water, it would cause a second steam explosion that would rupture the containment vessel further and spread more radioactive fallout. The Soviets could not afford that to happen, so hundreds of workers who dug metros or mines were immediately drafted and brought in to dig a tunnel under the plant to the pools. These were then drained and filled with concrete, preventing the disaster from becoming even worse than it already was. The fates of many of them are unknown after this, but it is a safe guess that a sizeable portion of them have perished as a result of their time working at Chernobyl.
Around 650,000 draftees (over a period of several years, of course) were sent to the 30-km zone to work in various forms. Some cut down trees and buried them. Some dug up the ground and buried it. Some demolished villages and buried them. Some were sent in to wash radioactive dust off of the buildings in places like Pripyat, the town of Chernobyl, and Poleskoye. Some were sent in to notify the residents of villages that they were being evacuated. Some were sent directly to the reactor, to finish the cleanup of the radioactive waste spewed from the core and to construct the sarcophagus. In any case, the longest period of time that any one group of liquidators was present in the exclusion zone was six months. The ones who served at the reactor or in places like Pripyat typically died from accute radiation poisoning within the span of a month or sometimes a year (at most) after their departure from Chernobyl. Most of the liquidators who worked more than 15-km from the epicenter who died had cancer many years after the fact.
Dozens upon dozens of policemen were dispatched into the 30-km zone to guard the roads in and out, to direct the traffic of the construction vehicles at the plant, to evacuated residents, etc. After several months, when much of the Zone was deserted save for liquidators, police were given the orders to look for looters and had permission to shoot on sight. This did not always happen; many accepted bribes of vodka or a cut of the loot. Most of the policemen who worked in the exclusion zone died of cancer.
The residents who were evacuated were not taken out of the dangerous area in time, and some were not taken out at all. People who lived in Pripyat took heavy doses of radiation, but the ones who lived in villages without paved streets or purified water were at a much higher risk. Many chose to stay and have since died there, buried by what few other people remained with them. Surprisingly, a very low statistic of people from the town of Pripyat died from accute radiation poisoning; however many children born to the people who lived there died or continue to suffer treatments as a result.