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PHOTOS: Journalist Julie McDowall Visits Abandoned Chernobyl Sites

PHOTOS: Journalist Julie McDowall Visits Abandoned Chernobyl Sites

Chernobyl became known as one of the biggest nuclear catastrophes in history. The accident occurred on April 26, 1986, inside a nuclear power plant in the town of Pripyat that was formerly a part of the Soviet Union.

Journalist Julie McDowall recently explored the evacuated areas of Chernobyl and captured haunting images of towns once inhabited by a thriving community before disaster struck.

McDowall shared her photos, tweeting, "Trip to Chernobyl today. We were the only people there. Near total silence. All we could hear was the crackle of the Geiger counter."

"A lovely winter wonderland? No, it's the former main street of an abandoned Chernobyl village. The most irradiated villages were completely buried and only appear as gentle mounds in the snow."

We stood on a balcony in the grounds of St Elijah's, the only remaining active church in Chernobyl, and looked out onto miles and miles of abandoned villages.

"Abandoned theatre in a Chernobyl village's town hall. Sign above the stage says 'Long live communism - the future of mankind.'"

The journalist told followers she was on a nuclear tour of Eastern Europe. She promised to share more photos of the trip but already guaranteed that no other images would compare with her visit to Chernobyl.

McDowall also explained that although nobody lives in Pripyat where the majority of these photos were taken, there are people who live and work nearby in the town of Chernobyl. "The workers do a few weeks' work, then leave for a few weeks before returning. That way they keep their radiation exposure down," she said.

"The Palace of Culture (eg community centre) in one of Chernobyl's abandoned villages. The Soviet hammer and sickle is still visible and our Ukrainian guide kept pelting it with snowballs."

Unsupervised exploration is strictly prohibited for reasons like this. But it still doesn't stop curious vistors.

"The massive Duga radar beside the Chernobyl plant. An illegal tourist from Belarus (known as 'stalkers') died last week as he tried to climb it. The authorities frequently hide in these areas to catch the stalkers."

Once the tour of Chernobyl is over, nobody is allowed to simply leave the premises. All tourists must be scanned before leaving the grounds back into civilization.

And what if there's no satisfying CLUNK? No worries. McDowall assured, "They'll scan you for the offending piece of clothing and then hose it. If that doesn't work then you need to strip it off and leave it behind. It rarely happens, they said."

People were moved by McDowall's poignant images and praised her work.

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H/T - twitter, wikipedia