Ukrainian firefighters have been trying to put out fires near the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) for a month, and more than 200 firefighters are taking part in the fight against the flames.

According to satellite images, it is estimated that 11,500 hectares of forest have been affected by the fires. Environmental experts feared that the fires could expose the radioactive ash remaining in the soil.

 

“The radiation background in Kyiv, the Kyiv region and the restricted zone is within the limits of the natural background creators,” the State Emergency Service said on Friday.

The fires began on April 3 in the western part of the uninhabited exclusion zone before spreading to nearby forests.

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Ukrainian officials have said they have extinguished the fires several times, but new fires continue appearing in the area. The National Police has said it has detained two people suspected of setting the initial fire.

The Chernobyl disaster on April 26th, 1986 is the biggest civil nuclear accident. The explosion killed 30 people at the scene, but hundreds later died from radiation sickness. The exact number of victims has not been determined. The Soviet authorities initially tried to hide the scale of the nuclear disaster.

350,000 people were evacuated within a 30-kilometer radius of the NPP, and it is still forbidden to live in this area. However, about 200 people have returned to the area despite the official ban.

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