Raging forest fires in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl are edging closer to the exploded nuclear reactor and emergency workers are now in a desperate last-minute bid trying to build firebreaks around the power plant in Ukraine.

However, there are fears the flames could reach abandoned lorries and other vehicles deeply contaminated from the 1986 explosion.
The 1986 explosion – initially covered up by the then Soviet government – sent radioactive fallout across Europe exposing millions to dangerous levels of radiation.

Fires have been blazing for nine days in the almost uninhabited 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone surrounding the disused plant. There are fears of radiation in the ground unleashed by the infernos could reach Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, and other populated areas. It is thought that the major incident has been grossly underreported due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Emergency workers are desperately trying to build firebreaks around the power plant in Ukraine.
Eyewitnesses put the flames at around “a couple of kilometres” from the shut plant. Kateryna Pavlova, a senior official involved in the fight to extinguish the blazes, admitted: “We have been working all night digging firebreaks around the plant to protect it from fire.
“At the moment, we cannot say the fire is contained.”
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, says ‘Don’t Worry,’ But Scientists are Concerned About Chernobyl Wildfires. image:RSS

More than 300 people and 85 pieces of equipment have been deployed daily in the fight to extinguish the flames, which comes as Ukraine – one of Europe’s poorest countries – battles the coronavirus.

The State Agency for Management of the Exclusion Zone – which Pavlova heads – has ordered in three Antonov planes (AN-32P) and two MI-8 helicopters which have air-dropped more than 250 tonnes of water on the wildfires. However, after eight days the efforts have so far failed.

With the town of Chernobyl being largely abandoned by humans, nature has reclaimed the area, with wild boar and wolves often spotted roaming the deserted streets. Egor Firsov, the head of Ukraine’s ecological inspection service, wrote in a Facebook post: “There is bad news – in the centre of the fire, radiation is above normal.

However, forest fires are still common in the region, according to Mr Firsov. He said: “The problem of setting fires to grass by careless citizens in spring and autumn has long been a very acute problem for us.

“Every year we see the same picture – fields, reeds, forests burn in all regions.”

The fires were started by burning grass on farmland before the flames lapped at trees in the exclusion zone, Ukrainian officials have blamed arsonists for the fires.