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Russia Confirms Wildfires In Polluted, Radioactive Region


Local residents with a water tank watch as a fire approaches their village of Berestyanki, in the Ryazan region, on August 9.

Local residents with a water tank watch as a fire approaches their village of Berestyanki, in the Ryazan region, on August 9.

Russian officials have confirmed for the first time the presence of wildfires in contaminated, radioactive areas, a day after Greenpeace accused the authorities of downplaying the blazes' radioactive danger.

Russian officials say 28 fires covering an area of 269 hectares have been counted in the heavily polluted Bryansk Oblast during the last few days.

The region has been among the world's most dangerous after its exposure to radiation from the 1986 Chornobyl disaster in neighboring Ukraine.

Aleksei Bobrinsky, deputy director of the state-run Russian Center for the Protection of Forests (Roslesozashchita), said although fires had hit contaminated areas, much of the pollution remains deep in the soil and there was "no reason for panic."

Experts have warned of the possibility that radioactive soil could be swirled into the air along with ash by the flames and the firefighting efforts.

The Russian government says firefighters have halved the total area of wildfires in central Russia during the last 24 hours.

But there are still hundreds of fires raging.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said today that fires are covering an area of almost 93,000 hectares, almost half of the August 10 figure of 174,000 hectares.

But the ministry said that the number of fires still ablaze actually went up to more than 600 fires from 557 reported on August 10.

compiled from agency reports
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