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Village evacuated as forest fires in Chernobyl exclusion zone continue to burn

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A forest fire burning near the village of Volodymyrivka, in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, Sunday April 5, 2020.
A forest fire burning near the village of Volodymyrivka, in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, Sunday April 5, 2020.   -   Copyright  (AP Photo/Yaroslav Yemelianenko)
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Firefighters in Ukraine have continued to battle wildfires that broke out last weekend in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the north of the country, bringing a spike in radiation levels.

Residents from one village in the territory were moved from their homes by police, who were sent to evacuated the area around Poliske on Thursday.

The region is largely unpopulated, although some 200 people have remained living there since the 1986 nuclear accident -- when an explosion sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe in what is still the world's worst-ever nuclear accident.

Around the capital Kyiv, authorities have also been alerted to scores of fires that broke out in peat bogs and grasslands, the Kyiv Post reports. No-one has been hurt, it quotes officials as saying.

Winds from the Chernobyl fires have been blowing smoke north towards the border with Belarus, according to the NASA Earth Observatory.

In midweek however, smoke spread towards the capital some 100 kilometres to the south, as illustrated by an image taken from NASA’s Aqua satellite.

NASA Visible Earth
The natural-color image above shows the fires on April 9, as observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.NASA Visible Earth

Wildfires in the Chernobyl region have been of growing concern to scientists. It's thought that in recent years they have become more intense, because forests and grasslands have recovered.

Research has found that the fires in contaminated areas can send radioactive elements into smoke plumes, that then travel long distances.

After the latest fires broke out on April 4, Ukraine's environmental inspection service found levels of radioactivity 16 times above normal.

However, tests carried out this week around Kyiv and in Belarus have reportedly found no abnormally high levels.