As extinguished forest fires continue to smoulder in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, ferocious flames burn brightly on the Belarusian side of the border – affecting several towns and villages in the Gomel region. While rescue efforts saw firemen quench the flames in Petrikov and Zhytkovichy, it has been harder to get the fires in Khoiniki, Narovlya, Mozyr under control.
Unpredictable high wind carried the flames and caused the fire to spread at a rapid rate making it impossible to contain. To date, 750 hectares of land has already been burned across Belarus. Many people have already fallen victim to the raging and uncontrollable fires.
Aside from the immediate dangers posed by the flames themselves, fires in areas that have already been contaminated with radiation from the Chernobyl Disaster can cause radionuclides – radioactive particles that settled in the tree tops and on the soil in the aftermath of the Chernobyl Disaster, to be rereleased into the atmosphere.
“Wind can raise hot particles in the air together with the ash and blow it toward populated areas. The main risk from the fires comes from inhaling, via the smoke, small radioactive particles,” says Olena Miskun, an air pollution expert with Ecodiya, an environmental advocacy group. Also, radioactive particles can land on gardens or fields and later be consumed in food which puts people at risk of contamination.
The recent radioactive fires in the Chernobyl zones of Belarus and Ukraine, remind us once more of the terrible legacy of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. These wild fires raise again the terrible and dangerous face of further radioactive poisoning over the peoples of the regions especially a terrible threat once more to the innocent children.
Chernobyl Children International work with several families in the affected regions and our employees in Minsk have been in close contact with these families to ensure everyone’s safety during this crisis. They have observed that villagers are terrified, panic stricken and fear for their futures.
Mrs Karas – who lives in the Khoiniki region in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, is no stranger to the after effects of the Chernobyl Disaster as the area around Khoiniki experienced heavy radioactive fallout after the accident happened. Her son – Ivan, was born with kidney disease, which is a common ailment found in those who have been ill-affected by radiation. Yesterday, Mrs Karas told us:
“We are living in terror. We lived through Chernobyl and now we are living through Chernobyl again with the terrible smoke we can’t breathe. I am terrified for my children – my little Vasa and Ivan…what’s to become of us now?”
Ivan (15) and his brother Vasa (10) visit Ireland every year for much needed Rest and Recuperation trips. They spend Christmas and Summerbreak with the Everard family in Kilkenny. These visits greatly benefit the children’s immune systems, which have been left severely weakened from growing up in an area that has high levels of radiation.
Sadly, this year’s Summer Rest and Recuperation trip has had to be temporarily postponed on account of the Coronavirus, but CCI are doing our utmost to ensure that once the pandemic is over that all our Programmes including Rest and Recuperation will be reinstated.
In the meantime, we can only hope that the fear-inducing fires will be extinguished soon and urge locals to observe the official restrictions put in place by Belarussian authorities, which forbid entering the forest as rescue efforts continue in the region.