The writer and producer of HBO’s Chernobyl has asked tourists to show respect for “all who suffered and sacrificed” as a result of the 1986 nuclear disaster, after the hit series prompted a rise in tourism to the area.
Craig Mazin addressed photographs being posted to Instagram and other social media platforms, which show visitors posing for selfies and using relics of the disaster as props.
In one particular photo a woman is seen posing in a hazmat suit, undone to reveal she is wearing only a thong underneath.
“If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred there,” Mazin tweeted. “Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed.”
It’s important to note that it’s not entirely clear whether all the images Mazin is referring to are actually taken in the exclusion zone – the town of Pripyat in Ukraine. Instagram allows users to geotag themselves in a location anywhere in the world without actually having to be there at the time.
But it does raise questions about how far people are willing to go for likes by at least trying to make their followers believe they are in Chernobyl.
The HBO and Sky Atlantic mini-series, which examines the nuclear accident from 26 April 1986, first aired on 9 May 2019. Several local travel agencies reported a 30% increase in bookings year-on-year within the first few weeks.
In 2005, the World Health Organisation estimated as many as 4,000 people could’ve died as a result of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl power plant. Two died at the scene of the explosion and another 28 from acute radiation poisoning in the weeks that followed.
Around 1,000 firefighters and emergency services workers experienced high radiation doses and went on to develop life-shortening illnesses.
Evacuation of Pripyat led to the permanent rehousing of 116,000 people, and homes within a 30km radius of the site were evacuated.
The site has been open to tourists since the late 90s, but has increased in popularity over the last five years. Visitors are screened for radiation levels on entry and exit, and sometimes wear hazmat suits and carry devices to measure radiation levels.