It was a major communications node and important centre of trade and commerce, especially in the 19th century. The city is 14.5 kilometers (9 miles) south by south-east of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which became known for the Chernobyl disaster. The plant exploded on 26 April 1986; clouds of radioactive particles were released, and the severely damaged containment vessel started leaking radioactive matter. More than 100,000 people were evacuated from the city and other affected areas. Despite the fact that radiation is still being emitted from the nuclear disaster site, the 800-year-old city of Chernobyl survives. As of 2004, government workers still police the zone. They try to clean up radioactive material. Hundreds of people — mostly the elderly — have decided to live with the dangers and have returned to their homes in the zone's towns and villages. Their population was highest in 1987, when there were more than 1200 people. In 2003, there were about 300.