Wildfires near Chernobyl under control, Ukrainian authorities say
There is no more “open fire” but some grass and brush is still smoldering, said the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.
Three aircraft, three helicopters and more than 400 firefighters were used to control the blaze, which raged for several days.
Forest fires are not uncommon in the deserted 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone, which was evacuated following the devastating 1986 blast at the nuclear power plant that sent radioactive fallout billowing across Europe, exposing millions to dangerous levels of radiation.
Fears had been raised that the fires could overrun the nuclear power plant and a radioactive waste storage facility.
Emergency services said Tuesday radiation levels in Kiev and the surrounding region are “within normal limits.”
On Monday Chernobyl tour operator Yaroslav Yemelianenko reported fires were burning within two kilometers (1.2 miles) of the nuclear reactors and the storage facility in a video posted on Facebook.
“The situation is critical. The exclusion zone is blazing. Local authorities report that everything is under control, but in fact, fire is rapidly spreading to new territories,” he wrote in the post.
Any smoldering in the exclusion zone that remains will be extinguished in “a few more days” according to a statement from the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The explosion at Chernobyl killed 31 people and millions more were exposed to dangerous radiation levels.
The final death toll as a result of long-term radiation exposure is much disputed. Although the UN predicted up to 9,000 related cancer deaths in 2005, Greenpeace later estimated up to 200,000 fatalities, taking further health problems connected to the disaster into account.
For more than two decades, authorities maintained the exclusion zone around the reactor, including the city of Pripyat, once home to 50,000 people.
However in recent years Chernobyl has become a popular site for tourists, despite its tragic history.
Visitor numbers saw a sharp rise following an HBO mini-series about the tragedy which aired in 2019, and the Ukrainian government decided to designate it an official tourist attraction in July.
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