Photos From the 1986 Chernobyl Disaster

As the HBO miniseries Chernobyl comes to a conclusion tonight, viewers will have been taken on a dramatic trip back to 1986, experiencing the horror and dread unleashed by the world’s worst-ever civil nuclear disaster. Thirty-three years ago, on April 26, 1986, a series of explosions destroyed Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4, and several hundred staff and firefighters tackled a blaze that burned for 10 days and sent a plume of radiation around the world. More than 50 reactor and emergency workers were killed in the immediate aftermath. The workers and emergency responders were not the only ones to risk their lives—a handful of photographers went to the scene as well, managing to capture images of some of the chaos and acts of heroism that took place in the weeks and months that followed. (For current images of Chernobyl and the surrounding exclusion zone, be sure to also see Visiting Chernobyl 32 Years After the Disaster, from 2018.)

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