On April 26, 1986, technicians at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, accidentally detonated one of its nuclear reactors when it suffered a dramatic power increase. Thirty-one people were killed in the initial blast, and countless others suffered radiation poisoning. The radiation was such that some workers on-site were hit with lethal levels within a minute. The material spread inexorably across the Europe and the then-Soviet Union, and toxic nuclear waste is still leaking from the disaster site to this day.
The area is still inhabited, and Chernobyl still employs workers. The first three reactors (only the fourth exploded) remain operational, though they’re undergoing a decades-long process of being decommissioned.
Sometime next year, a structure called the “New Safe Confinement” will be placed over the fourth reactor in an effort to contain the leaking radiation.
Here are 30 images from the plant today, the 30th anniversary of the accident.
A man is screened for radiation
The surrounding region is still populated.
30 years after a nuclear meltdown, animals have made Chernobyl their home. http://on.natgeo.com/1pwy5Iy
With no one to hunt them or encroach on their habitat, wildlife thrives in Chernobyl.
A memorial for the “Liquidators”
Anatoliy Koliadyn, 66, was one of the “liquidators” — someone who tried to contain the radiation in the moments after the accident. He now suffers from a string of radiation-related illnesses.
The hospital of Pripyat is where the doomed firemen were brought after their efforts to extinguish the fire at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. It is still one of the most contaminated buildings in the town. #chernobyl #tschernobyl
Firefighters were the first to respond to the disaster.
Wildlife returns to radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl -great piece from
@RolandOliphant http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/23/wildlife-returns-to-radioactive-wasteland-of-chernobyl/ …
Przewalski’s Horses are among the many species to have taken over the site.
Vladimir Barabanov, another former liquidator
Vladimir Barabanov, 64, helped decontaminate reactor number three; he and two colleagues are shown standing on top of it in the photo.
Pantonio in Kiev & Chernobyl, Ukraine
#streetart http://www.streetartnews.net/2016/04/pantonio-in-kiev-chernobyl-ukraine.html …
Portuguese painter and muralist Pantonio commemorates the disaster.
Multiple schools were abandoned in the wake of the accident.
Reactor number four
This building houses what’s left of reactor number four, which exploded in the catastrophe.
We’re still trying to contain Chernobyl, 30 years on http://cnn.it/1Sn0ex9
Chernobyl’s “New Safe Confinement” shelter is being constructed next to the disaster site. When complete, it will be placed over the damaged reactor to contain leaking radioactive material.
Works in reactor number two last year
Workers in reactor number two in September of 2015. The first three reactors are currently being decommissioned.
30 years after Chernobyl disaster, containment is nearing completion http://wapo.st/1qLorml
Graffiti covers abandoned structures in the disaster site.
Post-apocalyptic normality: 3 decades pass since Chernobyl nuclear disaster http://on.rt.com/7ayn
Civilians weren’t evacuated until 36 hours after the initial explosions.
Safety plan for employees
This was the safety precaution information for employees of the former nuclear power plant.
The Nadesha (“hope”) rehabilitation center treats children in the contaminated areas.
The abandoned playground outside the elementary school in #Pripyat in #Ukraine. Students and their parents evacuated the city after an explosion at the #Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station on April 26, 1986. #nuclear #meltdown #disaster #ghosttown
People were initially told they could return three days after evacuating — this discouraged them from bringing too many contaminated belongings.
Reactor number four
The building that houses the remains of the exploded reactor number four.
30 years after the Chernobyl disaster, a photographer shows us the disaster’s real legacy: http://cnn.it/24eoBRM
Yulia, 23, lives in a nearby town built to house evacuees.
30 years after Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a massive arch rises to entomb melted reactor http://on.wsj.com/1Qw2E72
The “New Safe Confinement” is meant to last the next 100 years.
A Chernobyl employee
This employee is in a Chernobyl corridor close to the first two reactors.
A zone in Chernobyl was set aside in perpetuity after the nuclear plant catastrophe http://nyti.ms/1SC1co4
Civilian explorers call themselves “the stalkers.”
Cooling water pump
Visitors look at a cooling water pump, one of eight on-site.
Even after 30 years, Chernobyl repair racing against time http://cbsn.ws/1pv07nP
The “New Safe Confinement” structure has a price tag of $2.3 billion.
Some young Ukrainians have made a hobby of going to Chernobyl’s exclusion zone http://nyti.ms/1Tqm9mc
Discarded gas masks litter the site of the explosion.
Wildlife returns to radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/23/wildlife-returns-to-radioactive-wasteland-of-chernobyl/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter …
A crucifix stands at the border of Pripyat.
Watch: A giant arch will encase the exploded Chernobyl reactor and seal it for 100 years http://bit.ly/1XKDWWp
The “New Safe Confinement” is scheduled for installation in 2017.
Some Ukainian children have no choice but to eat food contaminated by Chernobyl disaster. http://apne.ws/1VqM8NN
Last year the Ukrainian government canceled the lunch program for 350,000 children due to lack of funds.
Photos of an abandoned Chernobyl 30 years after nuclear disaster:
What used to be an events hall, photographed earlier this month.
A mural on a museum wall
A mural commemorating the disaster. Storks are the Ukrainian national bird.Photos via Getty Images