Fires Blazing Dangerously Close To Chernobyl Blanket Ukranian Capital In Smog
Wildfires burning near the Chernobyl nuclear plant have covered the capital of Ukraine in smoke and made its air pollution among the worst in the world.
Residents burning rubbish near Chernobyl accidentally sparked fires on April 4, and though firefighters managed to contain the initial blazes, three new fires began to spread in the contaminated exclusion zone on Thursday, April 16.
The fires were propelled by strong winds and smoke has engulfed the capital Kyiv. While many residents are adhering to stay-at-home orders anyway, authorities are now encouraging residents to close their windows to prevent the smog filling their houses.
Swiss monitoring group IQAir presents live air quality data and lists Kyiv as number four in a list of cities with high air pollution at the time of writing, April 18.
Kyiv is preceded only by Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Shenyang, China and Yangon, Myanmar, though at one point on Thursday Kyiv’s air pollution was the worst in the world.
The pollution in the Ukrainian capital is emphasised at the moment due to the dramatic slump in economic activity across the world, which has resulted in cleaner air for many cities and in turns makes Kyiv’s situation appear even more dire.
Earlier this month, Ukrainian officials discovered a huge radiation spike in the area where the first fires began, and as fires continued to spread there were concerns of radiation contamination.
Though Kyiv has been badly affected by the smoke, Volodymyr Demchuk, director of the Emergency Response Department in the capital, insisted in a video statement that radiation levels there are normal, NBC News reports.
Authorities said the wildfires were posing no threat to radioactive waste dumps and other facilities in Chernobyl, though advised Kyiv residents to drink a lot of water and cover windows with wet fabrics if they open them.
In total, the fires have scorched more than 3,500 hectares of forest, though the state emergency service said three new fires are ‘not large-scale and not threatening’. Around 1,000 firefighters have been deployed to battle the wildfires, with the help of aircraft.
The health ministry is urging Kyiv’s 3.7 million residents to stay indoors and close windows, warning the smog can cause headaches, coughs, difficulty breathing and inflammation, Reuters reports, as per the BBC.
Emergency services say fire has not spread to the Chernobyl power station area, where the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place in 1986.
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