Thursday, October 29, 2009

World 'Ghost Towns' (Part 2)


Oradour-Sur-Glane (France) : the horror of WWII

The small village of Oradour-sur-Glane, France, is the setting of unspeakable horror. During World War II, 642 residents were massacred by German soldiers as punishment for the French Resistance. The Germans had initially intended to target nearby Oradour-sur-Vayres and mistakenly invaded Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10th 1944. According to a survivor’s account, the men were herded into barns where they were shot in the legs so they would die more slowly. The women and children, who had been held in a church, all perished when their attempt to escape was met by machine-gun fire. The village was razed by the Germans afterward. Its ruins still stand today as a memorial to the dead and a reminder of the events that took place.


Gunanjima (Japan) : the forbidden island


This island is one among 505 uninhabited islands in the Nagasaki Prefecture of Japan about 15 kilometers from Nagasaki itself. It is also known as "Gunkan-jima" or Battleship Island thanks to its high sea walls. It began in 1890 when a company called Mitsubishi bought the island and began a project to retrieve coal from the bottom of the sea. This attracted much attention, and in 1916 they were forced to build Japan’s first large concrete building on the island. A block of apartments that would both accommodate the seas of workers and protect them from hurricanes.


In 1959, population had swelled, and boasted a density of 835 people per hectare for the whole island (1,391 per hectare for the residential district) - one of the highest population densities ever recorded worldwide. As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960’s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima’s mines were no exception. In 1974 Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine, and today it is empty and bare, with travel currently prohibited. The island was the location for the 2003 film ‘Battle Royale II’ and inspired the final level of popular Asian videogame "Killer7".




Kadykchan (Russia) : memories of the Soviet Union


Kadykchan was one of many small Russian cities that fell into ruin when the Soviet Union collapsed. Residents were forced to move to gain access to services like running water, schools and medical care. The state moved them out over a period of two weeks, and they were taken to other towns and provided with new housing. Once a tin mining town of 12,000 people, the city is now desolate. In their hurry to leave, residents left their belongings behind in their homes, so you can now find aging toys, books, clothing and other objects throughout the empty city.



Kowloon Walled City (Hong Kong, China) : A lawless city


The Kowloon Walled City was located just outside Hong Kong, China during British rule. A former watchpost to protect the area against pirates, it was occupied by Japan during World War II and subsequently taken over by squatters after Japan’s surrender. Neither Britain nor China wanted responsibility for it, so it became its own lawless city.




Its population flourished for decades, with residents building labyrinthine corridors above the street level, which was clogged with trash. The buildings grew so tall that sunlight couldn’t reach the bottom levels and the entire city had to be illuminated with fluorescent lights. It was a place where brothels, casinos, opium dens, cocaine parlors, food courts serving dog meat and secret factories ran unmolested by authorities. It was finally torn down in 1993 after a mutual decision was made by British and Chinese authorities, who had finally grown wary of the unsanitary, anarchic city and its out-of-control population.



Famagusta (Cyprus) : once a top tourist destination, now a ghost town

Varosha is a settlement in the unrecognised Republic of Northern Cyprus. Prior to the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, it was the modern tourist area of the city of Famagusta. For the last three decades, it has been left as a ghost town. In the 1970s, the city was the number one tourist destination in Cyprus. To cater to the increasing number of tourists, many new high-rise buildings and hotels were constructed.


When the Turkish Army gained control of the area during the war, they fenced it off and have since refused admittance to anyone except Turkish military and United Nations personnel. The Annan Plan had provided for the return of Varosha to Greek Cypriot control, but this never happened, as the plan was rejected by Greek Cypriot voters. As no repairs have been carried out for 34 years, all of the buildings are slowly falling apart. Nature is reclaiming the area, as metal corrodes, windows break, and plants work their roots into the walls and pavements. Sea turtles have been seen nesting on the deserted beaches.




By 2010, the Turkish Cypriot administration of the de-facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus plan to reopen Varosha to tourism and the city will be populated as one of the most influential cities in the north of the island.



Agdam (Azerbaijan): once a 150,000 city of people, now lost


The eerie city of Agdam, Azerbaijan was once a thriving city of 150,000 people. It was lost in 1993 during the Nagorno Karabakh war; though the city was never the setting of combat, it fell victim to vandalism while occupied by Armenians. The buildings are gutted and empty, with only the graffiti-covered mosque remaining intact. Agdam residents have moved to other areas of Azerbaijan, as well as into Iran.

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