Forest fire near Chernobyl boosts radiation level

Elias Hubbard
April 6, 2020

A raging forest fire engulfed 250 acres around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant this weekend, surging radiation levels in the exclusion zone.

More than 100 firefighters, backed by aircraft and other equipment, are trying to contain the fires after working into the night on Sunday.

Chernobyl was the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster when in April 1986, the No.4 reactor exploded, causing large quantities of radioactive material to disperse in the atmosphere.

"There is bad news - radiation is above normal in the fire's centre", Yegor Firsov, head of Ukraine's state ecological inspection service, said on Facebook on Sunday. He posted a video showing a Geiger counter displaying a level of radioactivity 16 times above normal. But the emergencies service said radiation levels in the capital of Kyiv, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south, were within norms. Their updated statement makes no mention of radiation in the area of the fires.

Ukraine's emergency services ministry scrambled 130 firefighters and two planes to tackle the blaze which ignited yesterday.

The fire covers about 20 hectares, while another smaller fire has been "localised", the authorities say.

Fires are a routine threat in the forested region around the exclusion zone where an explosion 33 years ago ripped a roof off the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant near the now-abandoned town of Pripyat.

Officials had earlier shared images taken from an aircraft of white smoke blanketing the area, where it said firefighting was complicated by "an increased radiation background in individual areas of combustion".

Tens of thousands of people were forced to relocate in the wake of the disaster, and three of the reactors kept running. The zone is largely unpopulated, although about 200 people have remained despite orders to leave.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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