Forest fire breaks out near Chernobyl nuclear plant

Fire hits an abandoned village in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Image copyright AP
Image caption Villages abandoned after the 1986 disaster were consumed by the forest fire

A fire has broken out in woods near Ukraine's disused Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of a meltdown in 1986.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said about 400 hectares of forest was alight in the exclusion zone around the plant

Up to 200 firefighters, along with scores of trucks and aircraft, were tackling the blaze about 15 to 20km (9 to 12 miles) from the nuclear plant.

Zoryan Shkiryak, head of Ukraine's emergency services, said later the fire had been brought under "full" control.

The meltdown at Chernobyl sent a plume of radiation across Europe, the worst nuclear accident in history.

Maya Rudenko, a spokeswoman for Chernobyl, told the AFP news agency that Tuesday's fire posed no risk to the heavily contaminated former nuclear plant.

Arson suspected

Mr Avakov said authorities suspected the fire was started deliberately and had tightened security around the exclusion zone.

A state nuclear inspection official told AFP that the level of background radiation around the plant had not changed after the fire broke out.

A fire raged at the plant for 10 days after the reactor meltdown 1986, sending huge amounts of radioactive material into the surrounding environment and over large parts of Europe, particularly Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

The area around the plant was evacuated and a 30km (19 mile) exclusion zone remains in place to this day. Work on laying a new seal over the damaged reactor began in 2007 and is due to be completed this year.

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Media captionDavid Shukman explains how the protective shield works

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