Arson suspected cause of forest fire near Chernobyl

29 April 2015

Firefighters were today still battling to extinguish Ukraine's worst forest fire in 23 years, but state officials said its spread towards the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant had been halted. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said yesterday that the situation was already under control and that there had been no changes to levels of background radiation.

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Ukraine's worst forest fire since 1992 (Image: Ukraine government)

"Our state emergency services are working very actively to localise the fires," Yatsenyuk said in a televised report near the site. "Three planes, one helicopter and several vehicles have been deployed. And serious forces, including those from the interior ministry, are being used to prevent the fire from spreading." He added that the authorities suspected the fire had been started deliberately since it covered areas on either side of the river.

In a government statement, Nikolai Chechetkin, deputy head of Ukraine's state emergency service, also said that arson was a "probable" cause of the fire.

The blaze started yesterday afternoon about 20 kilometres from the Chernobyl site, in northern Ukraine. A 30km exclusion zone remains in place there, following the 1986 accident that was caused by a fire at unit 4.

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Yatsenyuk observes the fire from above (Image: Ukraine government)

Work on the site reached an important milestone last month, as construction of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement entered its final stage. The giant structure - designed to make the old Chernobyl shelter and remnants of the damaged reactor safe and environmentally secure - is slated for completion by the end of 2017. Once complete, the structure will be slid over the Chernobyl shelter that houses the reactor damaged in the accident.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News