I was in Canada at the time of the accident where I had just started a job as a Research Associate at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. We received the news slowly - the first information about a large release of radiation came from Forsberg, Sweden.
In the USSR though some details were known on the day of the accident, there were no official reports. It was only on April 28, two days later, that a terse report acknowledged an accident and said that one of the reactors at Chernoby had been damaged, and a Government Commission was being established.
We learned later that 40 hours after the explosion, the residents of Pripyat, the town for reactor workers three kilometers to the north, were informed that they would be evacuated for three days. The story of the firefighters and firstaid workers who died in the immediate aftermath came out slowly - 2 deaths initially reported and eventually 28, with 2 others killed inside the building - the 'final' total for a long time was 31. Gorbachev appeared on TV only on May 14, and his comments were the antithesis of Glasnost, mainly propaganda about his policy of eliminating nuclear weapons. That's how it began..
Author of three books on Chornobyl and professor at the University of Alberta