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Wildfires Could Spread to Region irradiated by Chernobyl Disaster

Emergencies Ministry warns of nuclear threat

The Russian Emergencies Minister is warning of possible radiation risks, as wildfires approach closer to the area affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

A forest fire near the village of Golovanovo, Ryazan region, on August 5. A noxious smog choked Moscow as Russia moved to protect military and nuclear sites from the relentless spread of wildfires that have have killed 52 people. (AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova) The main fear is that the fires, which are moving further south of Moscow toward the Bryansk region, could disturb and spread the contamination buried in the ground after the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

"Several laboratories are closely monitoring the situation in the Bryansk region - the territory which was contaminated following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster," Emergencies minister Sergey Shoigu said. "If fires erupt there, there is a risk that radionuclide can be released into the air with other combustible gases, and more areas could become contaminated."

Firefighters have been dispatched to the area to avert possible outbreaks. They have been battling hundreds of blazes across Central Russia, which have claimed fifty lives thus far.

Meanwhile, the smog created by the wildfires is the thickest so far. It has already disrupted air travel, with Moscow's Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports diverting forty incoming flights to the airports located either north of the city, or to St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod or Kazan.

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