For the first time in years, the radiation levels in the surrounding areas of Chernobyl has spiked to alarmingly high numbers, concerning residents in the neighboring city of Kyiv.
Keep scrolling for the full story, and to see the harrowing footage from the exclusion zone for yourself...
The Chernobyl disaster has haunted the world for decades.As a result of a safety test gone wrong, an explosion occurred inside the No.4 nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine, in 1986.
Combined with operational errors and technical faults, there was a power surge.
via: GettyThe power surge caused a steam explosion, which then resulted in the final nuclear explosion. This reaction shot the reactor's 500-ton roof and almost 9 tons of toxic waste straight up into the air and surrounding atmosphere.
Shockingly, the locals didn't immediately know the severity of the situation.
via: GettyDespite the power plant's explosion, the people in the neighboring town of Pripyat went about their usual business. And, even more shockingly, it took officials another thirty-six hours to call for an evacuation.
In these thirty-six-hours, deadly levels of radiation had been billowing into the atmosphere...
via: GettyAnd silently infecting the civilians as they went about their day-to-day business.
The town was finally evacuated...But it was to little avail.
Because, within the first few weeks of this evacuation...Many of the local residents died of radiation-related illnesses.
Radiation carries with it a number of serious and life-threatening conditions.
via: ShutterstockThe symptoms often start off pretty mild - People initially experienced headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
However, more severe side-effects such as permanent tissue damage, seizures, and third-degree burns later followed.
via: GettyAll of these can eventually result in death, which was the unfortunate fate for a lot of the residents in the surrounding areas.
The exact number of casualties from the disaster is still unknown.
via: GettyThe official Soviet recording puts the figure at thirty-one, however, the real amount is thought to be in the thousands, if not millions.
Today, the local town remains abandoned.
via: GettyThe area surrounding Chernobyl stands as an eerie and poignant reminder of the devastating explosion.
And, though the reactor has been covered up...
via: GettyThe radiation levels in the surrounding area are still notoriously high and are expected to be so for the next 20,000 years.
Yet, despite the harrowing history and dangerously high levels of radiation...
via: GettyThe Chernobyl exclusion zone is today a popular tourist hot spot, with an estimated 60,000 people visiting the abandoned area every year.
Ukrainian officials opened the area to tourists nearly a decade ago...
via: GettyAnd assured that the area was safe, as long as the visits and tours were heavily regulated.
But now, tourists may want to rethink about visiting the area any time soon...
via: GettyBecause the radiation levels, which have been deemed as "moderate" for the last few years, have suddenly spiked to alarmingly high levels.
As it stands, the area is currently under siege by a fifty-acre-large forest fire.
via: GettyThe area, which has been overgrown by nature and wildlife since it's abandonment, is no stranger to large forest fires. But, this time, it seems to be getting truly out of hand.
The blaze has caused radiation levels to spike sixteen times above their regular levels.
via: GettyAnd Ukraine's capital city, Kyiv, was at risk of being affected by these out-of-control levels. According to CNN, approximately ninety firefighters were deployed to the area on Sunday, with one official confirming that the fire had spread over nearly 250 acres – 50 of which were in the restricted area near the doomed nuclear power plant.
The situation has been described as "difficult."
via: GettyEgor Firsov, the head of Ukraine's ecological inspection service, visited the site himself, where he filmed his Geiger counter - a radiation tracking device - racking up the radiation levels. He wrote on Facebook: "There is bad news. As you can see in the video, the readings of the device are 2.3, when the norm is 0.14. But this is only within the area of the fire outbreak."
Drastic measures have been taken to control the fires.
via: Getty2 An-32P planes and a Mi-8 helicopter were deployed to battle the largest blazes, and they have so far carried out forty-two water drops on the area.
The radiation levels are undeniably high.
via: FacebookBut, apparently, this happens nearly every year as a result of naturally occurring forest fires and, according to Firsov, deliberate arson attacks. He explained in roughly translated English: "The problem of arson grass by unconscious citizens in the spring and autumn we have long been standing very overreact. However, the penalty for such a violation is still only 175 UAH (around $6). And every year we see the same picture - in all regions burning fields, reed, forests."
You can read Firsov's full post here.
But now, thankfully, the fires are now reportedly "under control."
via: GettyAccording to The Guardian, government specialists on Monday sent to monitor the situation reported that there was no rise in radiation levels in Kyiv or the city suburbs. Let's just hope it stays that way.
In the last year, the Chernobyl disaster has been in the headlines for a completely new reason...
via: GettyLast year, HBO completed a series that detailed the initial aftermath of the devastating event - And it has been unbelievably successful. Keep scrolling to learn more...