Ukraine firefighters battle fire near Chernobyl, with radiation 16 times higher than normal
- The 1986 reactor meltdown and explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history
- A man has been arrested for allegedly starting the fire in the Chernobyl exclusion zone
Radiation in the area was 16 times higher than normal background levels, a senior environmental official, Egor Firsov, said in a statement. But radiation levels in the capital, Kiev, about 100km (62 miles) away, were within norms.
About 25 hectares (62 acres) of forestland within the predominantly uninhabited area were ablaze on Monday morning, the State Emergency Service said in a statement. No victims have been reported.
About a fourth of the blaze was in the Chernobyl zone. The blaze was reported to have spread to an area of more than 100 hectares (250 acres) over the weekend.
About 140 firefighters have been working to extinguish the blaze, with the help of aircraft.
Police said they tracked down a person suspected of starting the blaze by setting dry grass on fire in the area.
The 27-year-old man said he burned grass “for fun” and then failed to extinguish the fire when the wind caused it to expand quickly.
The man, who lives in a small town in the area, could face five years in prison.
The 1986 reactor meltdown and explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history, and sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe.
The 2,600-square-kilometre (1,003-square-mile) Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was established after the disaster. It is largely unpopulated, although about 200 people have remained despite orders to leave.
Ukraine began facilitating tourism to the site in 2011 as the radiation released during the disaster had subsided to what the government deemed to be permissible levels.
Last year Ukraine recorded the highest number of tourists in the exclusion zone, near its northern border with Belarus, with more than 100,000 visitors.