The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. The accident was a result of a mismanaged test at the Soviet nuclear plant, leaving clouds of nuclear matter spreading across the western USSR and Europe. The original death toll reached 31 people, most of whom were reactor staff and emergency workers. However, this number rose significantly when people contracted radiation-related illnesses, such as cancer, in the following months.

The nuclear disaster happened during a systems test at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, close to Pripyat, a Ukrainian town that was heavily affected by the disaster and has now been completely abandoned. Between 600,000-800,000 firefighters and emergency workers were called to the area and remained there for over two years, burying radioactive equipment. A concrete sarcophagus was hastily built over the site of the stricken reactor to contain the worst of the radiation, but a more permanent solution has been in the works since late 2010.

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A children's gas mask is seen at a kindergarten in the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plantGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A portrait is seen in a house in the abandoned village of Zalesye near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in UkraineGleb Garanich/Reuters

Nature has been quick to reclaim the abandoned infrastructure in the area. Thirty years on, areas such as Piraypat, Kopatchi and Zalesye have become unearthly ghost towns. Trees have wound their branches around the roofs of apartment blocks, that were originally built to house Chernobyl power plant workers.

Houses hold eerie memories of the people who once lived there, with stray shoes and family photos still fixed to bedroom walls. The control room of reactor four inside the former nuclear power plant remains untouched since the accident. Schools and kindergartens are littered with toys and clothes, acting a potent reminder of how quickly the towns had to evacuate.

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A house is seen in the abandoned village of Zalesye near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in UkraineGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A cot is seen in a house in the abandoned village of ZalesyeGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A gas mask is seen next to children's in a kindergarden in the ghost city of PripyatSergei Supinsky/AFP
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A ferris wheel between abandoned buildings in the ghost city of PripyatGenya Savilov/AFP
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A view of an amusement park in the centre of the abandoned town of PripyatGleb Garanich/Reuters
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An information panel shows safety precautions for employees inside the former Chernobyl nuclear power plantSean Gallup/Getty Images
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Instrument panels in the control room of reactor number two and nearly identical to the panels in the control room of reactor four inside the Chernobyl nuclear power plantSean Gallup/Getty Images
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An emergency telephone stands in a corridor inside the former Chernobyl nuclear power plantSean Gallup/Getty Images
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Instrument panels in the control room of reactor number two that were nearly identical to those in stricken reactor four stand inside the former Chernobyl nuclear power plantSean Gallup/Getty Images
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A control desk in the control room of reactor number two inside the former Chernobyl nuclear power plantSean Gallup/Getty Images
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Control panels of the destroyed fourth power block at the Chernobyl nuclear power plantGenia Savilov/AFP
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A white-tailed eagle sits on the roof of an abandoned school near 19 miles exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, in the abandoned village of Tulgovichi, BelarusVasily Fedosenko/Reuters
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Toys are left in a kindergarten in the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in UkraineGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in UkraineGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A doll in a children's gas mask is seen amongst beds at a kindergarten in the abandoned city of PripyatGleb Garanich/Reuters
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An interior view of a building in the abandoned city of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plantGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A doll and a gas mask are seen on a bed in one of the kindergarten of the ghost city of PripyatSergei Supinsky/AFP
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A containment shelter for the damaged fourth reactor (L) and the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure at the Chernobyl nuclear power plantGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A ferris wheel is seen through the trees in the abandoned city of PripyatGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A view of the abandoned city of Pripyat is seen near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in UkraineGleb Garanich/Reuters
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A child's sandal and stuffed bear are seen at a kindergarden in the ghost town of PripyatSergei Supinsky/AFP
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A snow-covered ride at the amusement park in the ghost city Pripyat near to Chernobyl power plantGenya Savilov/AFP
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A child's sandals are pictured in a kindergarden in the ghost city of PripyatSergei Supinsky/AFP