A bulletin board in the Ukrainian town of Pripyat still bears an edition of the Sovietsky Patriot newspaper, dated three days before the nuclear explosion that turned the city into one of the world’s most baleful ghost towns.
Once home to some 50,000 people whose lives were connected to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Pripyat was hastily evacuated one day after a reactor at the plant 3 kilometers (2 miles) away exploded on April 26, 1986. The explosion and the subsequent fire spewed a radioactive plume over much of northern Europe.
Once a model Soviet workers’ town — neat high-rise apartment buildings and streets converging on a plaza that housed a hotel and a cultural center — Pripyat is now a model of technology gone catastrophically wrong. As such, it’s become a tourist destination, alluring to those whose bucket-list includes a taste of danger.
Tourist companies offer day trips to Pripyat and the area around the plant, where radiation levels have receded enough to make brief visits tolerable. The levels are still high enough that no one is allowed to reside permanently within a 30-kilometer (18-mile radius) of the plant.
Every year, nature takes back a little more of Pripyat. The buildings’ roofs sprout small trees, their floors and walls deteriorate slowly from rain, snow and changing temperatures.
Most of the buildings are in such decay that visitors are advised not to enter them, a caution that many ignore.