Chernobyl fire: Toxic fumes near nuclear disaster site could sweep across Europe – warning
Hundreds of emergency workers have been deployed to fight the blazes which have come dangerously close to the site of the notorious 1986 nuclear disaster. Authorities fear the fires could reach abandoned vehicles at the former plant, causing mighty explosions and spreading toxic fumes across the country and the wider region. European countries are also vulnerable, including neighbours Poland, Belarus, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova.
Kateryna Pavlova, a senior official involved in the firefighting, warned the situation was far from under control.
She said: “At the moment, we cannot say the fire is contained.”
The NASA Earth Observatory said smoke from the fires has already reached Belarus.
Aerial footage taken last week showed smoke over the capital Kiev.
The Kyiv Post reported authorities in the city had been alerted to multiple fires which broke out in peat bogs and dry grasslands.
No injuries were reported.
More than 300 firefighters and 85 pieces of equipment have been deployed to stop the flames in the exclusion zone.
Three Antonov planes (AN-32P) and two MI-8 helicopters have also been drafted in to drop water.
More than 250 tonnes of water has been dropped by aircraft, the state agency for management of the exclusion zone said.
Authorities sprung into action when the blaze started nine days ago.
Last week police arrested a man on suspicion of starting a fire in the exclusion zone.
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The 27-year-old reportedly told investigators that he had set grass and rubbish on fire in three places “for fun”.
But he said it was not his plan for the small fires to get out of control.
He said when the winds picked up and spread the flames he was unable to extinguish the fires.
Authorities fear the flames could unleash radiation in the ground in the forests near the Chernobyl reactors.
The consequences of the fires would be much more serious if flames reached the former plant, where the worse nuclear disaster in history happened in April 1986.
The fires come as Ukraine is dealing with a coronavirus crisis.
A total of 3,102 cases have been confirmed while 93 people have died after testing positive.
Ukraine is one of the continent’s poorest countries.
A war with Russian-backed separatists in the nation’s eastern regions has raged since 2014.
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