April 29, 2015 / 11:04 AM / 3 years ago

Forest fire near Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear zone under control: Prime Minister

KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian fire fighters have contained a large forest fire that threatened to spread toward the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant and radiation levels in the area are normal, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Wednesday.

An aerial view through a window of a helicopter shows fire and smoke from buildings of an abandoned village are on fire in northern Ukraine, April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kravchenko/Pool

The blaze in woodlands, parts of which are still contaminated by radioactive particles from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, had raised fears of increased radiation as high winds pushed it toward the plant about 20 km (12 miles) away.

Yatseniuk, speaking at a government meeting, said: “As of 1245 (05:45 EDT) the fires has been localized and contained. The radiation levels are normal.”

Emergency services deployed more than 300 firefighters, three planes and one helicopter to tackle the fire which Yatseniuk said was the largest in Ukraine since 1992.

An explosion followed by a fire at Chernobyl’s Reactor 4 nearly thirty years ago sent radiation across Europe. The stricken reactor is now covered by a concrete casement that the Ukrainian authorities plan to reinforce by 2016.

Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Louise Ireland

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