Twenty five years ago today, the worst nuclear accident in history engulfed the cities of Chernobyl and nearby Pripyat. On April 26, 1986 a reactor explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant released extensive radioactive contamination into the atmosphere over Western Russia and Europe. In this article we remember those affected by the tragedy, and examine the ghost cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat quarter of a century later.
While only 64 deaths had been linked directly to radiation as of 2008, the tragedy has generated longterm health problems for many of those caught in the zone of exclusion. Official post-Soviet data suggests around 60% of the fallout landed in Belarus, while the disaster had unprecedented cultural and economic ramifications for the Soviet Union.
It took 500,000 workers to contain the contamination and avert a wider catastrophe. The Chernobyl disaster crippled the Soviet economy, while many in the area (now Ukraine) continue to pay an even greater price today. The World Health Organization estimates that radiation induced deaths could reach 4,000. Greenpeace puts the figure at more than 200,000, while Russian publication Chernobyl concludes that 985,000 excess deaths occured between 1986 and 2004.
(Images: Obin Robinson via vwvortex.com)
Most deaths in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster were attributed to plant employees and rescue workers. Even today, a vehicle graveyard exists in a remote part of Ukraine not far from Pripyat. Containing helicoptors, firefighting vehicles and tanks, the graveyard has remained untouched since the disaster, and will linger on for many years to come. This is one spot even the bravest urban explorers should avoid.
While Chernobyl maintains a small population, the larger city of Pripyat – founded in 1970 to house Chernobyl workers and their families – is now one of the world’s most notorious modern ghost towns. Once home to 50,000 people, it’s rare to find abandoned cities on the scale of Pripyat, making it a focus of urban exploration forums. But while it’s considered relatively safe today, and several Ukrainian companies even offer tours, Urban Ghosts does not advocate entering the city.
Pripyat’s crumbling remains have been extensively documented, making it possible to explore from the safety of your PC. Decades of abandonment have made it the subject of TV documentaries and books such as The World Without Us, while the swift evacuation of the city 25 years ago means numerous signs of human daily life can still be seen today. School desks, hospital beds and the twisted remains of Pripyat’s theme park all bestow an eerie atmosphere on this Soviet-era ghost town.