Ukrainian firefighters labored into Sunday night trying to put out two forest blazes in the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power station, which was evacuated because of radioactive contamination after the 1986 explosion at the plant.
Ukraine’s emergencies service said one of the fires, covering about 5 hectares, had been localized. It said the other fire was about 20 hectares.
Earlier on Sunday, state ecological inspection service head Yehor Firsov said the fires had spread to about 100 hectares.
The discrepancy in sizes could not immediately be resolved.
The fires were within the 2,600km2 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone established after the 1986 disaster at the plant that sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe. The zone is largely unpopulated, although about 200 people have remained despite orders to leave.
Firsov said radiation levels at the fire were substantially higher than normal.
“There is bad news — radiation is above normal in the fire’s centre,” Firsov said on Facebook.
The post included a video with a Geiger counter showing radiation at 16 times above normal.
Kiev has mobilized two planes, a helicopter and about 100 firefighters to fight the blaze.
However, the emergencies service said radiation levels in the capital, Kiev, about 100km south, were within norms.
Chernobyl polluted a large swathe of Europe when its fourth reactor exploded in April 1986, with the area immediately around the power plant the worst affected.
People are not allowed to live within 30km of the power station.
The three other reactors at Chernobyl continued to generate electricity until the power station finally closed in 2000. A giant protective dome was put in place over the fourth reactor in 2016.
Fires are common in the forests near the disused power plant.
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