With the hit HBO show Chernobyl having premiered on television sets worldwide, it's not surprising to see such a surge of interest in the biggest atomic disaster of our lifetime aside from the Fukushima disaster. On April 26th, 1986, the city of Pripyat was soon to be evacuated due to a breach in reactor safety protocol which prompted the release of radiation that would easily spread throughout Ukraine as well as western Europe.
The explosion of the reactor would result in the loss of at least 4,000 lives, with it later speculated by Greenpeace that the total would actually amount to 200,000 in total. Since the city was not evacuated until the following day, it's estimated that many went on to live with long-term effects as well.
Today, the grounds of Chernobyl are as safe as they can be and many visit what's left behind... however, it's nothing short of eerily surreal.
25 The Iconic Abandoned Playground
The amusement park is only one of the attractions that Pripyat holds which is picturesque to some, but a gross reminder to others. It was here that families gathered and kids would play with their friends until disaster left their town vulnerable and uninhabitable. What remains today is a stark reminder of that.
24 Everything Was Left In Ruin
The evacuation took place on April 27th, roughly 36-hours after explosions in the reactor would effectively destroy it. Once radiation had reached the open air, many reported feeling sick within hours. Hospitals were taking patients but it was initially unclear what was happening and, despite the truth, there was not much that could be done once people had been exposed.
23 Resembling An Overgrown Post-Apocalyptic World
Almost 30 years later, the site of Chernobyl is open for tours. With the HBO show bringing light to this catastrophic disaster, general interest has been reignited in fans and atomic tourism-lovers alike. While the story of Chernobyl is a tragic one, it doesn't stop thousands from flocking to Russia every year to witness what's left of it all.
22 A Contaminated Middle School, Now Decaying
Here we have what remains of what was once a middle school, fully of preteens eager to learn and see their friends. Those who called Pripyat their home were subject to a delayed evacuation that was initially meant to last only three days. The realization would soon dawn upon them that no one would ever walk these halls again.
21 Gas Masks Became A Symbol Of The Only Life Left
It was impossible to walk the ground of Pripyat without the use of a gas mask post-explosions. The city of Pripyat essentially became a nuclear fallout zone and anyone who journeyed there with no protection risked their lives doing so. This is the aftermath of many who came back.
20 The Fallout Was Of Astronomical Proportions
There was no coming back from the fallout that was to follow in the reactor; it was a chain reaction that simply could not be stopped. Many who visit forget how hopeless a situation it was until seeing a striking reminder such as this: No object was worth risking someone's life to save.
19 A Memorial To Those Who Lost Their Lives
The entire city now serves as a reminder of what human beings are capable of. It also serves as a reminder of things that we think we can control yet can't, and what happens when we don't. Pripyat might be open for educational tours but for some, it's only a reminder of a life they lost.
18 Those Who Survived Could Take Nothing With Them, Not Even Toys
Once radiation had consumed the city, nothing was safe. It would drift for miles and until experts went in with gas masks and Geiger Counters, nothing was deemed 'safe'. Any items or objects that were left behind after the explosions had to be left behind; they were considered to be radiative materials and unsafe for handling.
17 Once A Spot Where Children Played, Now A Contaminated Area
Another side to the theme park is the overgrown bumper car area. Its vibrant colors now fading in the mist that sometimes envelops Pripyat, this is by far one of the eeriest places in the city. These cars will never be functional again, and it's likely the city won't, either.
16 Wildlife Is Just Starting To Come Back, But Not All Of It
Scientists were recently surprised when they caught glimpses of wildlife returning in full swing to the area surrounding Pripyat. This could be a sign that radiation levels are slowly beginning to fall into a nonexistent zone, but that will still take some time. Not all wildlife has come back, however, as radiation levels still exist.
15 Like Something Out Of A Movie, But Worse Because It's Real
Taking a step back in time, it's easy to see from this picture how destructive radiation can be. Its lethal force not only unleashed itself on the human beings that lived in Pripyat but also on the vegetation and wildlife surrounding. The trees surrounding the area still have not recovered from the fallout.
14 Scanning For Radiation Levels Was The Norm
There was no getting into Pripyat until it was determined to be safe, and that would take years. Experts went in shortly after the fallout to measure radioactivity levels but they far exceeded anything a human could possibly survive in. This was level 7 on the disaster scale... the highest rating possible.
13 An Eerie Image Showing No One Was Safe
We often forget that it wasn't just adults who inhabited the city of Pripyat. It was home to families, children, and pets, all of whom needed to be evacuated. In many cases, evacuation came too late or not at all. In the weeks following, many lost their lives to radiation poisoning.
12 Radiation Levels Are Still Higher There To This Day
While it's likely that you'll be exposed to more radiation during a flight to Russia, that doesn't mean the site of Pripyat is not still radioactive. Those who visit are permitted the use of their own Geiger Counters, which effectively test the levels that still exist there today. Although small, it's far from safe to inhabit.
11 A Stormy Reminder Of What Occurred Here
This eerie photo, showcasing a reactor in Pripyat, is a dark reminder of the events which occurred there. While the photo serves its purpose as far as adding drama, that tragedy is that this disaster needs none to be recognized for what it was: A massive, avoidable loss of life.
10 Residents Of Pripyat Walked This Bridge Daily
Although this bridge was saddled with far more devastation in the show (you can't believe everything you watch), the actual bridge does exist. Some did make their way to the top in order to observe what was going on, but there's no proof to show whether or not they all succumbed to illness by doing so.
9 Echoes Of The Life Which Once Lived There
Thought this artwork depicts very real humans, no one with this jolly of a mood remains in Pripyat. While art may tell otherwise, the city is to be uninhabitable for thousands of years to come, on expert estimation. Due to the various levels of radiation in different parts of the city and surrounding areas, an exact date is unknown.
8 Demonstrating Radiation Counts For Those Who Visit
While the levels of radiation that exist in Pripyat today are not nearly what they were 30 years ago, that doesn't mean Geiger Counters won't pick anything up. Certain counts vary as you walk around reactors and some areas pick up greater levels while others are far below what one would expect.
7 The Power Plant In The Distance, An Ominous Face To Guide You
Here, we see the reactor in the distance, but something feels out of place. It could be the decaying plant life to the side of the heavy concrete door, it could be the complete lack of life, or it could be the eerie graffiti that halts you on the way in.
6 A Hall Once Filled With Music, Now Sits In Silence
Sadly, this is one of many grand rooms that are left abandoned and empty in Pripyat. What was once a city full of bustling life and people who called it home, is now much more like this. A soundless piano which sits amongst empty seating, not likely to be filled again.
5 The Forests Still Haven't Broken Down Due To Radiation Levels
The Smithsonian published an article in 2014 reporting that forests around the fallout site still haven't decayed properly. The radiation levels affected everything, from animals to fungi, all of which help the process of natural decay. Radiation levels caused everything to come to a standstill, including the breaking down of life.
4 A Leftover Gas Mask And Probably A Warning
As a gas mask hangs in the doorway of what was once likely a beautiful home, it's a reminder that someone once lived here. Many left the lives they'd built in Pripyat, with family members who likely worked on the reactor, so suddenly and without any warning. To say it's sad is an understatement.
3 A Former Resident Returns
Despite it being illegal to live in the exclusion zone -- the zone immediately surrounding the disaster zone -- it's estimated that over one-hundred people still do. Many are elderly and return to the ruins of homes in order to start a life there, taking up residence farming, for the most part.
2 The Gripping Claw, Still With Intense Radiation Levels
Some things hold higher levels of radiation particles than others, such as the gripping claw that was used to clean up the aftermath of the reactor explosion. It's estimated that climbing inside of this will introduce roughly 3,000 times the average amount of radiation of the surrounding area, not to mention particles that remain attached to clothing and hair.
1 A Contaminated Forest Becomes An Eerie Stillshot
The forest surrounding Pripyat isn't in the greatest shape, either. Along with bird life showing signs of brain shrinkage and forest land not decaying as it should, the woods don't grow like they should, either. This portrays a bleak backdrop, echoing the tragedy that befell every living thing for miles.