Wildfires in Ukraine reached an area less than a mile and a half from where some of the most dangerous waste from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is stored, according to an environmental group and Monday media reports.
Greenpeace Russia officials told Reuters that satellite images of wildfires blazing near the abandoned town of Pripyat show the burn areas to be much larger than Ukrainian officials have claimed publicly, and now sit 0.6 miles from the site of the disaster itself.
“According to satellite images taken on Monday, the area of the largest fire has reached 34,400 hectares,” Greenpeace said.
Greenpeace officials added that a second wildfire much closer to the destroyed nuclear plan now sits at 12,600 hectares, according to Reuters, which noted that Ukrainian officials said earlier this month that the fire only affected 20 hectares. Ukrainian officials reportedly did not respond to requests for comment on Greenpeace’s claims.
An official with the country’s top agency in charge of the region surrounding the Chernobyl power plant added to the Associated Press, however, that officials “cannot say the fire is contained.”
“We have been working all night, digging firebreaks around the plant to protect it from fire,” the official said.
Video and images obtained by the news service shows large swaths of trees in the country’s exclusion zone, largely uninhabited due to radiation, burning as firefighters work to control the blaze.
The region has reportedly experienced unusually dry weather in recent months, while local police have said that a 27-year-old resident deliberately started the blaze.