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The dead zone Sumgait was once one of the most important industrial centres in the USSR. But the collapse of the Soviet system has revealed a frightening environmental legacy. Richard Thompson reports

Entering Sumgait's industrial zone is like walking on to a Mad Max set. A potholed dual carriageway carries you past mile upon mile of decrepit factory buildings. The road is flanked by rusting, leaking pipes winding through piles of twisted metal and broken concrete. Most striking of all, it is completely still. For an industrial city of 350,000 people it is eerie. The silence is evidence of how far the collapse of the Soviet economy has hit Azerbaijan.

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