Forest fire near Chernobyl boosts radiation level

MINSK, Belarus — A forest fire is burning in the evacuated area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and is causing elevated radiation levels, authorities said Sunday.

The blaze has spread to about 100 hectares (250 acres), said Yehor Firsov, head of Ukraine’s state ecological inspection service.

The emergency services ministry said 130 firefighters and two planes were laboring to put out the fire. It said radiation levels had increased at the fire’s center.

The blaze is within the 2,600-square-kilometer (1,000-square-mile) Chernobyl Exclusion Zone established after the 1986 disaster at the plant that sent a cloud of radioactive fallout over much of Europe. The zone is largely unpopulated, although about 200 people have remained there despite orders to leave.