By Vatican News
Ukraine's Emergency Service continued on Tuesday to battle major forests fires that began following an unusually dry weather spell on April 3rd.
Battling the Blaze
Hundreds of firefighters backed by aircraft were able to contain the initial blaze, but new fires are now raging close to the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Authorities in the country say that the situation is under control and have appealed for calm.
Police have already arrested a 27-year old local resident who is accused of deliberately starting the blaze.
Late on Monday President Volodymyr Zelenskiy promised transparency regarding the fires. "Society must know the truth and be safe", he said.
But as the fires rage on, concern is growing as to their proximity to the now defunct power station which was the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986.
Proximity to Chernobyl
Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace say the blaze is just one kilometre from the abandoned site. Aeriel footage showed images of scorched, blackened earth and charred trees around the exclusion zone near the plant.
A Chernobyl tour operator also described the situation as critical. He said the fire had reached the abandoned city of Pripyat, two kilometers from where "the most highly active radiation waste of the whole Chernobyl zone is located".
Ukrainian officials have, however, sought to play down fears. Radiation levels in the exclusion zone, they say, had not changed and those in nearby Kiev, the country’s capital, did not exceed normal levels.
An abandoned zone
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been abandoned and the city of Pripyat uninhabited since the nuclear accident at the No. 4 reactor nearly thirty four years ago.
People to this day are not allowed to live within 30km of the site.
The three other reactors at Chernobyl continued to generate power until the plant closed in 2000.