Official: Fires burning near Chernobyl

Aug. 11, 2010 at 9:47 AM
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MOSCOW, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Wildfires burned forests contaminated by radioactive fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, the Russian state forest protection service said.

The Roslesozashchita statement contradicts earlier comments made by the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry that the fires weren't affecting the Bryansk region, Interfax reported Wednesday.

After the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, 1-1/2 square miles of pine forest near the reactor turned reddish-brown and died, and several districts in the Bryansk region are considered to have been heavily polluted by the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster.

"As of August 6, 28 fires on an area of 269 hectares (665 acres) had been registered in the Bryansk region alone, including 12 fires on an area of 9 hectares (22 acres) in the southwestern part of the region," a Roslesozashchita spokesman told Interfax. "There are pollution maps and fire maps. Anyone can compare them. How can such information be denied?"

An Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Tuesday said the agency's information indicated "there have been no forest fires in the Bryansk region as of now."

Meanwhile, the Emergency Situation Ministry said the acreage affected by the wildfires raging across central Russia fell by half to 222,394 acres compared to Tuesday's 444,789 acres, RIA Novosti reported.

Russia is in the throes of the worst heat wave in the 130 years since record-keeping began as the country experiences high temperatures of at least 104 degrees.

"In the last 24 hours, 290 hot spots have appeared, 314 hot spots were put out, 612 hot spots with an area of 92,702 hectares (229,071 acres) remain active," the ministry said.

Another 56 large hot spots and 31 peat bog fires with an area of 145,211 acres remain, he said.

Government officials said the wildfires cost the Russian economy about $15 billion.

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