25 haunting photos taken in the devastating aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster

By Kirstin Buick
26 April 2016

Today marks 30 years since the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever seen.

Thirty years later, and the Ukraine city of Pripyat is still a ghost town.

It was here that an explosion rocked the Chernobyl power plant on April 26, 1986, causing radiation to leak from a nuclear reactor.

Thirty-one reactor staff and emergency workers were killed in the explosion, but it was the effects of the radiation that proved deadly for thousands more.

The immense radioactive fallout spread as far as France and the UK.

The full death toll has never been measured, but experts believe that thousands of people died and as many as 70 000 suffered severe radiation poisoning.

Thousands of children who drank irradiated milk contracted thyroid cancer. At least 15 of them died.

These certainly aren't the only cases of  premature cancer deaths caused by the radiation, but the final number is hotly contested.

In 2005, the Chernobyl Forum predicted that the accident would claim up to 4 000 lives in total. Another report in 2006 estimated the spread would eventually lead to between 30 000 and 60 000 cancer deaths. Greenpeace put the number at 93 000.

After the explosion of reactor No. 4, Soviet authorities rushed to erect a concrete shell to contain the toxic wreckage.

A 30km exclusion zone was created around the plant, leading to the evacuation of some 220 000 people who were never able to return home.

The stretch of land may not be liveable for as much as 150 years.

#onthisday 30 years since the Chernobyl accident #chernobyl #prypiat #piano

A photo posted by Paal Audestad (@paalaudestad) on

The catastrophe nearly crippled the Soviet economy, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev admitted.

The Soviet Union spent some 18 billion rubles and ultimately involved over 500 000 workers in their desperate struggle to contain the contamination.

The government initially tried to keep  the rest of the world in the dark about the scale of the disaster, only acknowledging the death of two people.

The full story only emerged years later.

The Chernobyl disaster is classified on the International Nuclear Event Scale as a level 7 event -- the maximum classification. There's only one other disaster considered to be a level 7 event -- Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster  in 2011.

Since then, background radiation levels in the surrounding area have fallen significantly, although they remain dangerously high in many locations.

Now, as part of the $2,2 billion New Safe Confinement project,  the reactor is is being entombed in a giant steel shelter,  replacing the crumbling concrete sarcophagus erected after the accident.

The project is due for completion next year.

A photo posted by The Age (@theagephoto) on

But according to the Ukrainian government, the site will not be completely cleared until around 2065.

Radioactive particles will remain in the environment for thousands of years to come.

A photo posted by Nicole Costa (@313niky) on

Sources: MailOnline, The Telegraph, History.com

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