Over 500 wildfires have been raging across Russia for the past week, and now forest service officials are reporting that blazes have reached lands already contaminated by radioactive waste from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster (Deutche Welle).
“According to data from August 6, in the Bryansk region alone 28 fires covering an area of 269 hectares (664 acres) were recorded on these radioactive lands,” an official told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
This is a change from statments made earlier this week, in which Russian officials denied any knowledge of wildfires in the Bryansk region.
As the fires spread, scientists have become increasingly concerned that blazes allowed to reach the highly contaminated areas could result in nuclear particles being lifted out of the soil and into the atmosphere.
Just days ago, Care2′s Nancy Roberts reported that the fires have killed 50 people, left several thousand homeless, and devastated the country’s agricultural system.
As of Tuesday, the Russian Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu reported that the area was being monitored by nuclear experts, and no visible increase in radiation levels had been detected.
Although any radioactive particles released during the fire would result in much lower levels of radiation compared Chernobyl, Professor Edmund Lengfelder, chairman of the German Society for Radiation Protection, told the German public that these could travel up to thousands of kilometers depending on wind conditions.
Watch this amateur footage of a car making a lucky escape from a raging forest fire in Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod region. The situation has escalated following weeks of record breaking temperatures.
Image Credit: Flickr - Andrezej Zarori