By Chris Johnston, in The Guardian, Nov 29, 2014
A camera mounted on a drone has revealed the eerie post-apocalyptic landscape of a town abandoned after the nuclear power station at Chernobyl exploded nearly three decades ago.
The British documentary maker Danny Cooke has travelled to Pripyat, just a few miles from the power plant, which was once home to 50,000 people. It was evacuated soon after the disaster on 26 April 1986 that killed 31 people and sent large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere over the western part of the then Soviet Union and Europe as far as away Wales.
His video, Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl, marks the first time the area has been seen from the air. He shot the footage while working on a segment for U.S. current affairs programme 60 Minutes on CBS, which was broadcast last week.
Cooke’s haunting three-minute film shows sights such as a Ferris wheel in an amusement park quietly rusting away. The park had been due to open for the first time just days after the disaster. The sun is shining as the wind rustles the lush vegetation that is slowly taking over the decaying buildings and facilities.
The Devon-based film-maker also sent the drone into a crumbling indoor swimming pool and over factories and apartment buildings where the only sign of life is the weeds growing on the roof. “Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been,” Cooke said. “There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place. Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”
It is not until the drone is sent rising above the treetops that viewers can see the vast dome being built to place over the damaged reactor.
There is still so much radiation spewing from it that the 1,400 workers are building the 20,000-tonne steel structure nearby, shielded from the radiation by a huge concrete wall. When the 190m-high dome is finished it will be inched into place and sealed over the defunct power plant. Funding for the project of almost £500m was pledged by 28 countries including Britain in 2011, but it has faced a series of delays following the conflict in Ukraine.
Despite the 20-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl, some former residents returned to the area and it has also become something of a nature reserve and an attraction for a certain type of tourist.
Cooke used a DJI Phantom 2 drone and a Canon 7D on his shoot.
Chernobyl: The catastrophe that never ended, by Bob Simon, broadcast on 60 Minutes (CBS News), Nov 23, 2014