Twenty-seven years on from the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, a look at life inside the exclusion zone. The Chernobyl disaster that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine is considered to be the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe. The official Soviet casualty count of 31 deaths has been disputed, and long-term effects such as cancers and deformities are still being accounted for.
CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 2006: On 26th April, 1986, at 1.23am the world's worst nuclear disaster happened at Reactor Number 4 (pictured) at Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine. 190 tons of highly radioactive material were released into the atmosphere destroying the lives and land of millions of people. The explosion exposed the people around Chernobyl to radiation 90 times greater than from the Hiroshima bomb. The UN estimates that 9 million people, including 4 million children, are affected by the disaster. Radiation specialists expect nearly 1 million people to develop cancer as a direct result of the accident. In Belarus, next door to Ukraine, almost 400,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and become environmental refugees as a result of the contamination left by the explosion. Around 2,000 towns and villages have been abandoned and become a radioactive desert, overgrown with poisoned vegetation and fenced off by barbed wire. 20 years after the disaster 99% of the land in Belarus is contaminated. 25% of Belarusan farmland is a nuclear wasteland. Thyroid cancer has increased by 2,400%. Congenital birth defects have increased by 250% and there has been a 1,000% increase in suicides in the contaminated areas. (Photo by Tom Stoddart/Exclusive by Getty Images) 383331 01: Heavy equipment surrounds the Chernobyl nuclear plant May 1, 1986 in Russia. Safety work is being done on block nr. 4 of the plant after an explosion caused massive leakage of radioactive gas into the environment. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Liaison) CHERNOBYL - JANUARY 25: An abandoned ferris wheel is seen in a childrens fairground in the town of Pripyat on January 25, 2006 near Chernobyl, Ukraine. The town of Pripyat, deserted since the 1986 catastrophe, once housed 30,000 people, the majority of being workers from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Days after the catastrophe the inhabitants were relocated to other locations in the Soviet Union. The town of Pripyat has remained uninhabited since the Catastrophe. Prypyat and the surrounding area will not be safe for human habitation for several centuries. Scientists estimate that the most dangerous radioactive elements will take up to 900 years to decay sufficiently to render the area safe. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) PRYPYAT, UKRAINE - JUNE, 2006: Views of Prypyat, a joyful town established in 1970 which population of more than 45,000 habitants, seen here with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the background, on June 1, 2006 inside the Chernobyl exclusion, Ukraine. It is located only about 1.5km from the Chernobyle nuclear power plant, and was entirely evacuated on April 27, 1986, the day after the Chernobyl explosion. Today, it is a ghost town and entry is still forbidden. (Photo by Patrick Landmann/Getty Images) CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE - JUNE, 2006: The mushrooms, abundant in the area, are heavily contaminated, containing caesium in particular, which dwells in the surface layer of the earth, June 1, 2006 in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, Ukraine. With the disappearance of man in the exclusion zone, nature has regained its liberty. Fauna in the exclusion zone is particularly rich, and includes elks, wild boars, reindeers, wild horses, wolves, mice, and fish. The wildlife does not seem to be affected by the contamination, however the consequences of Chernobyl can be truly measured by looking at their DNA. (Photo by Patrick Landmann/Getty Images) KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE, 2004: The consequences of the Chernobyl disaster on the health of the population are still not well known, June 1, 2004 in Kiev, Ukraine. In this hospital situated in Kiev, 35,000 people of different origins are treated, and epidemiologic research is being undertaken. It is financed by various European programs, and is very well equipped. Thyroid cancer is mostly being found among children. (Photo by Patrick Landmann/Getty Images) CHERNOBYL, UKRAINE - MARCH 25: Tourists take pictures in front of the destroyed No. 4 nuclear reactor block in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on March 25, 2011 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is next month. On April 26, 1986, a series of explosions destroyed Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 station causing a nuclear meltdown as firefighters tackled a blaze that burned for 10 days and sent a plume of radiation around the world in the worst-ever civil nuclear disaster. Over fifty people died and more than 130,000 people were evacuated from around the Chernobyl dead zone.. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek - isifa/Getty Images) PRIPYAT, UKRAINE - MARCH 25: Personal articles are seen in the empty town of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on March 25, 2011 in Pripyat, Ukraine. The 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is next month. On April 26, 1986, a series of explosions destroyed Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 station causing a nuclear meltdown as firefighters tackled a blaze that burned for 10 days and sent a plume of radiation around the world in the worst-ever civil nuclear disaster. Over fifty people died and more than 130,000 people were evacuated from around the Chernobyl dead zone.. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek - isifa/Getty Images)