Chernobyl is now a tourist attraction as rave partygoers throng the ruins in gas masks and nuclear fallout suits
Decades after Chernobyl in Ukraine was rendered a desert town following it being declared the world's worst nuclear disaster site, thrill seekers have turned the deadly radioactive zone into a tourist attraction — with rave parties, art installations and guided tours of the abandoned ruins.
On April 26, 1986, a sudden power surge late at night at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant resulted in an explosion, which pierced the 450-ton roof of the nuclear reactor, destroying it in the process. A second blast at the reactor released deadly levels of radioactive material into the atmosphere, 400 times more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
The radiation from Chernobyl spread as far as the western coast of Ireland and the southern tip of Italy. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, the presence of radioactive material in the region resulted in an estimated 4,000 premature deaths. Multiple scientists have declared that considering the amount of radioactive material still present in the region, Chernobyl — once a town of 120,000 residents — will not be safe to inhabit for the next 24,000 years.
Despite warnings by scientists and health experts, the deserted region still has an estimated population of around 200 people. These people are the ones who refused to leave their homes when the disaster occurred and even after the mass evacuations. They call Chernobyl their home.
The disaster site is now increasingly drawing thrillseekers from across the world, who want to tread on the uninhabitable land. The routine guided tours of the region was escalated into a rave party and art installation last year in November, where dozens of people from various countries came to the ruins dressed in nuclear fallout protective suits and gas masks to dance their hearts out.
Kiev artist Valery Korshunov, last year, held a press conference a few miles away from the nuclear reactor, the remains of which have now been entombed with a protective covering known as the Sarcophagus. Korshunov addressed the world on the first-of-its-kind art exhibit and dance party called the Artefact, and said that the event was about reinventing the town of ruins.
“For all people, the world knew this place for tragedy. But we have made Chernobyl less harmful for the environment. We are safe. We have come here to change the history of Chernobyl," Korshunov said.
Tourists in the region cannot visit the entire town and are only allowed to access certain parts. The access to the town was given to people after a clean-up operation of the reactor was declared complete in May 2018. The Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, which is a part of the government, decided to turn the radiation sign of the town into a tourist attraction and opened it for tourism.
Chernobyl's relative seclusion has also transformed the zone into a natural wildlife preserve, with some animals living in the area found with bizarre mutations from radioactive exposure.
The rave was considered a success as tourists clad in protective white jumpsuits witnessed a majestic light show projected on the ruins, while the Chernobyl tourist information center at the checkpoint sold radioactive ice cream — cone ice creams next to a radioactive sign — in the presence of military officials stationed in the town.
Nearly 60,000 visitors toured the Chernobyl exclusion zone last year, marking a significant increase compared to the years before. The tourist influx has also resulted in the cropping up of a series of budget hotels in the contaminated region.