Fire increases radioactivity near Chernobyl

MINSK, Belarus (AP) – A forest fire is burning in the evacuated areas around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and is intensifying radioactivity there, authorities reported Sunday.

The flames are affecting about 100 hectares (250 acres), said Yehor Firsov, director of the Ukrainian ecological agency.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations revealed that 130 firefighters and two small planes are trying to smother the flames. He added that radioactivity levels increased in the center of the fire.

The fire broke out within the 1,000-square-mile (2,600-square-kilometer) Exclusion Zone established after the 1986 nuclear disaster. The area is largely uninhabited, although a few residents live there despite orders to evacuate.