Derelict Helicopter Gunships in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

Derelict helicopter gunships near Pripyat, deep within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Image: Arkadiusz Podniesiński; derelict helicopter gunships near Chernobyl)

On April 26, 1986 the reactor block exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Pripyat, Ukraine, in what the World Health Organization would later describe as “the world’s worst-ever civil nuclear accident”. More than 30 people were killed by the explosions itself and countless others in its aftermath, the lives of survivors and those living near to the contaminated site forever changed.

We’ve reported in detail on this blog about the massive clean-up operation that followed the Chernobyl disaster, and the harrowing work of a selfless group of individuals known as the Liquidators. We’ve also documented the vast rescue vehicle boneyard, where the contaminated hulks of fire engines, helicopters and trucks used in the aftermath were abandoned to their radioactive fate.

Abandoned helicopter gunships near Chernobyl dating from the era of the Soviet Union (Image: Arkadiusz Podniesiński; abandoned helicopters await scrapping or burial)

The military and civilian rescue vehicles, deemed too toxic to scrap, were simply placed in storage and left to rot amid the barren landscape of rural Ukraine. In more recent times, the infamous Rassokha Equipment Cemetery has finally started to dwindle as the breakers (and foolish souvenir hunters) move in. But the derelict helicopter gunships pictured here lie in a different location several miles to the north.

According to Arkadiusz Podniesiński, who photographed the helicopter wrecks, the location is known as Buriakivka, though Google Earth reveals it to be situated immediately southwest of the ghost town of Pripyat itself. In fact, the radioactive storage site is far closer to the defunct Chernobyl power station than the better-known Rassokha Equipment Cemetery.

Abandoned vehicles junkyard inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (Image: Google Earth; derelict helicopters are at bottom right corner of site)

Like its counterpart to the south, it looks like many of the contaminated vehicles on this site have also succumbed to the breaker. But notable among the junkyard of abandoned trucks and other mechanical detritus are these Soviet-era Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships, which were photographed in 2011.

As we wrote in our in-depth feature – Abandoned Helicopters: 22 Derelict Choppers & Rotorcraft Graveyards – last month: “These wrecked Mil Mi-24 Hind gunships are understood to have been used in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster to measure the level of radiation in the air around the nuclear power station. The Soviet-era choppers were reportedly flown over the crippled reactor multiple times, and were deemed too contaminated to recover once their mission was completed.” As a result, they were abandoned within the exclusion zone, “their broken fuselages dumped near deep trenches containing buried equipment from the ghost town of Pripyat.”

 
 
 

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