13:54 GMT26 November 2020
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    KIEV (Sputnik) - Ongoing bushfires in the exclusion zone near the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant have destroyed more than 11,000 hectares (27,200 acres) of forest, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, exactly 34 years after the worst nuclear disaster in history.

    "Volodymyr Zelensky flew over the fire-hit area by helicopter and noted that the blaze had destroyed a large area of forest – more than 11,000 hectares", his office said.

    He also met with firefighters and awarded some of them with state awards.

    "We are grateful to you for your great work. Now from the height of the helicopter, we have seen the real result of your work. You are our heroes. Only there, high above, one understands how difficult your profession is. On behalf of the entire Ukrainian people, I thank you for the result", Zelensky said.

    On 4 April, the first bushfire broke out near the northern Ukrainian village of Volodymyrivka within the Chernobyl exclusion zone some 50 miles north of Kiev. By 7 April, the fires were within two miles of a nuclear waste storage site. Firefighters eventually managed to contain the blaze, yet smoldering continues.

    The explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant broke out in the early hours of 26 April 1986. Nearly 3,000 square miles of territory in northern Ukraine and parts of Belarus have been depopulated, with 1,000 square miles considered an exclusion zone due to elevated levels of radiation.

    Tags:
    Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine, area, Chernobyl, fire
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