Childrens toys and gas masks litter a kindergarten classroom in Pripyat, Ukraine. The abandoned town sits just two miles (three kilometers) from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, which exploded in the predawn hours of April 26, 1986. All 50,000 Pripyat residents were evacuated after the accident, and the town, which was created for Chernobyl employees, has not been repopulated.
A plant reactor exploded during a failed cooling system test, igniting a massive fire that burned for ten days. The accident, which was blamed on design deficiencies and lax operating procedures, released radioactivity equivalent to 400 times that of the Hiroshima bomb.
More than 350,000 people were displaced in the weeks after the explosion, and scientists estimate up to 90,000 square miles (233,000 square kilometers) of land in Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia (all part of the Soviet Union at the time) were contaminated with unhealthy levels of radioactive elements.
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Photograph by REUTERS/Damir Sagolj