On April 26 1986, a nuclear reactor exploded at the Chernobyl power plant near the Ukranian city of Pripyat. Though official records show that 31 people died, the long-term death toll is estimated between 4000 and 93,000. Now a ghost town, the site of the disaster has seemingly become the hottest new location tag for Instagram influencers.
Following the release of HBO drama series Chernobyl, tourism at the site has grown by 40 per cent compared with May last year. Though the plant has been open to tourists since the late 90s, the recent surge of people ‘doing it for the gram’ has drawn justified criticism.
A quick search under the Chernobyl hashtag on Instagram brings up dozens of photos of people provocatively posing in front of abandoned buildings, scorched buses, and in eerily empty dorm rooms, with one user posing half naked in a hazmat suit.
“It’s wonderful that #ChernobylHBO has inspired a wave of tourism to the Zone of Exclusion,” the series’ writer Craig Mazin tweeted, “But yes, I’ve seen the photos going around. If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred there. Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed.”
It’s not news that Instagram influencers will do literally anything for likes – including faking a trip to Coachella – but using the derelict site of one of the biggest disasters in history to up your follower count is a new low.
Given the site is still deemed unsafe to inhabit – though it is safe to visit, tourists are screened for radiation levels on entry and exit – and thousands of people tragically lost their lives, maybe think twice about flexing your guns in front of a never-used ferris wheel.