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30 years to the day, following a botched safety test in the control room of Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl nuclear power facility, an explosion led to a fire that took 10 long days to douse. The explosion also released radioactive material that spread over thousands of miles and drove hundreds and thousands of people away from their homes. (ALSO READ More stories from our Photos section) The nuclear radiation killed close to 4,000 people and 50 workers and firefighters died in a desperate attempt to contain the fire and radiation. Over 300,000 people that lived in the 30-km radius of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant were evacuated and the radiation affected millions. Pripyat, where the plant was located, was one of the nuclear cities in the former Soviet Union and the area that has been evacuated is known as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. From being a city of 49,000 people with gyms, stadia, swimming pools, parks and playgrounds, Pripyat is today reduced to a ghost town. Over the years though, as the radiation levels fell, tourists began to throng and travel planners began organizing tours to the city. On the 30th anniversary of the world’s worst civil nuclear disaster, we bring you these haunting pictures of the disaster site that is today one of the most popular disaster tourism destinations.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

The figure of a woman decorates a stained-glass window in an abandoned river-side cafe in Pripyat, Ukraine.

Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Floorboards lie in the former basketball court under peeling walls at the abandoned “Lazurna” public swimming pools facility on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

 

The abandoned town of Pripyat stretches out into the distance on January 25, 2006 near Chernobyl, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

 

Highly radiated helicopters used to dump concrete and water on the reactor 4 during the 1986 catastrophe lay in a field near the village of Rosoha.

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Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

 

The flags of the countries of the former Soviet Union hang in tatters in an abandoned pre school in the deserted city of Pripyat in Chernobyl, Ukraine. 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.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

A schoolbook lies on a pupils’ desk next to a Cold War-era gas mask in a classroom of abandoned School Number 3 in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Schoolbooks lie on shelves in a classroom next to the door to a hallway of abandoned School Number 3 in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Dolls and stuffed animals lie in the “Zlataya ribka” (“Golden little fish” abandoned kindergarten in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

A calendar from the fateful year 1986 lies on the floor of a former hospital on April 9, 2016 in Pripyat, Ukraine. Pripyat, built in the 1970s as a model Soviet city to house the workers and families of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, now stands abandoned inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, a restricted zone contaminated by radiation from the 1986 meltdown of reactor number four at the nearby Chernobyl plant in the world’s worst civilian nuclear accident that spewed radiaoactive fallout across the globe.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

A stairwell stands in abandoned elementary school number five in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

 

A blackboard is seen with chalk writing in an abandoned pre school in the deserted city of Pripyat on January 25, 2006 in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The text reads “No return, Farewell Pripyat” dated the April 28, 1986, the day when the city of Pripyat was evacuated.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Children’s beds stand in the abandoned kindergarten of Kopachi village located inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone near Chornobyl, Ukraine. Kopachi, a village that before 1986 had a population of 1,114, lies only a few kilometers south of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, where in 1986 workers inadvertantly caused reactor number four to explode, creating the worst nuclear accident in history. Radiation fallout was so high that authorities bulldozed and buried all of Kopachi’s structures except for the kindergarten. Today the Kopachi site, which lies in the inner exclusion zone around Chernobyl where hot spots of persistently high levels of radiation make the area uninhabitable for thousands of years to come, is still contaminated with plutonium, cesium-137 and strontium-90.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Tourists on a guided tour snap photos of one another outside an abandoned shop and apartment building in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Pupils’ chairs stand on rotting floorboards in an auditorium of abandoned School Number 3 on September 30, 2015 in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Ivan Semenyuk, 80, and his wife Marya Kindrativna stand outside their house located inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone on September 30, 2015 in Parushev, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

 

A pair flippers lay in deserted swimming pool in the abandoned town of Pripyat on January 24, 2006 near Chernobyl, Ukraine.

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Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

A children’s seesaw stands among former apartment buildings in Pripyat, Ukraine.

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