A group of daring tourists have ignored warnings and snuck into the "world's most dangerous ghost town" that has been wiped off maps.
The abandoned town of Wittenoom in Western Australia is being slowly demolished, with officials threatening trespassers with prosecution. Just over a year ago, the remote settlement still had one resident, 80 year old Lorraine Thomas. She was the last of a population that once numbered more than 800 people, but in May, after Lorraine moved out, bulldozers began dismantling what remained of Wittenoom.
The town is located in the middle of the largest contaminated site in the Southern Hemisphere, surrounded by 50,000 hectares of poisonous earth. This is why it's considered so deadly and why all roads leading to it have been blocked.
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Back in the 1930s, a group of tough Aussies, including an iron ore tycoon and a kangaroo hunter, discovered that the area was rich in blue asbestos. They started mining this useful material, which was great for insulating steam engines and used in some spray-on coatings, plastics and cement products.
Over the next three decades, thousands of workers were brought in to mine the substance. However, the mine shut down in 1966 as it wasn't making enough money. It was only much later that it became clear that blue asbestos is lethal.
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According to estimates, more than 2,000 miners, residents and their family members died from diseases related to asbestos, with many succumbing to painful cancers that attack the lungs. Despite the terrifying prospect of dying a slow death from asbestosis, many tourists can't resist visiting the site.
Lands Minister John Carey previously said the government closed the town to stop "idiotic" visitors who are drawn by the beautiful local landscape and the eerie silence of a once bustling town. While the state government is trying to demolish Wittenoom, potentially deadly asbestos tailings are scattered across the area, with no current plan to remove them.
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