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.
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.