After wildfires burned for more than a week at the Chernobyl exclusion zone, Ukrainian authorities announced that the forest fires have finally been contained on Tuesday, April 13.
This is according to a situational report released earlier today by BBC News. The fires began in the western part of the exclusion zone on April 3, and with the onset of rare dry weather, forests in proximity caught fire the following day.
Footage shot by Reuters in the area around the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant painted the picture of just how huge, and alarmingly rapid the fires were spreading as the video showed plumes of ominous black smoke resting just above charred trees and bushes.
How did the wildfire start?
Although a 27-year-old man has already been arrested after being suspected of deliberately starting the wildfires, investigations are still being done by the authorities to identify other possible leads on how the incident started.
Activist members at Greenpeace Russia said that while fires are common in the area, this was the worst since the haunting explosion that happened in Chernobyl nuclear power plant’s damaged Reactor 4 in 1986.
In the recent week, concerns have been raised that the incident could pose a radiation risk as the fires had come within miles from the sarcophagus of the defunct nuclear reactor containing radioactive wastes.
— euronews (@euronews) April 14, 2020
Rain helped put out the fire as it edged closer to the power plant
Volunteers rushed in to help hold out the fire to avoid what could have been another Chernobyl disaster. It is purported that around 500 firefighters were sent to the site backed by a hundred vehicles and three helicopters and three planes that dropped tons of water on the affected forests.
According to Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, the heavy rainfall that happened on April 14 helped these firefighters gain the upper hand and extinguished the open flames that had been spreading in the exclusion zone.
A possible cover-up?
A day after the fire broke out, Yegor Firsov, who is the head of the state ecological service, released a statement that the radiation levels at the center of the fire were higher than normal. He later retracted this statement.
Questions have sprung from contradicting statements as authorities reported that the wildfire affected an area of 20 hectares. Citing satellite images, Greenpeace Russia claims the blaze rather covered a locus of around 12,000 hectares.
It can be recalled that in 2019, many were gripped in an HBO mini-series that was aired to deliver breathtaking dramatizations about the 1986 Chernobyl tragedy.
Despite its horrifying backstory, Chernobyl has been designated as an official tourist attraction in July, which led to a surge in its visitors in the previous months.
Images used courtesy of Global News/Youtube Screenshot.