Chernobyl fires: Merkel scrambles £200k worth of aid for Ukraine

The help comes after Kiev, which is about 60 miles from the fires, was turned into the world’s most polluted city after smog drifted southwards to the capital. Fire hoses and dosimeters to measure radioactivity have been donated to help one of Europe’s poorest countries prevent a disaster in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone where at least six fires are burning.

A spokesperson for the German Embassy in Kiev said: “The quick help includes 80 dosimeters for measuring radioactivity and around 15 kilometres of fire hoses.”

A tank fire engine specially equipped for tackling flames in rough terrain will also be shipped.

The total worth of the equipment is €230, 000.

Germany’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Anka Feldhusen, said: “We quickly responded to support and safeguard the brave firefighters in their fight.

Since the inferno started, more than 700 firefighters have worked to bring them under control.

Helicopters and planes have also been deployed to drop tonnes of water.

Ukrainian authorities have examined satellite images and believe around 11,5000 hectares have been burned.

The country’s environmental protection organisation has warned the total area covered by flames could be more than four times higher than their estimate.

Last Tuesday, Ukrainian firefighters said they had brought the wildfires under control.

They said flames came within 600 feet of the abandoned nuclear plant.

The 1,000 mile zone around the site has been sealed off since the nuclear disaster in 1986.

Emergency workers prevented the flames from spreading to the nuclear ruins and the radioactive waste deposits.

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Authorities in Ukraine as well as those in neighbouring Belarus and Russia have said they found no evidence of increased radiation exposure.

Last weekend an adviser to the Ukrainian Government said thrill-seekers may have started the fires.

Yaroslav Yemelyanenko said a group of people inspired by the pre-Chernobyl novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky could be responsible.

The book details how explorers venture inside a contaminated zone to recover alien artefacts.

He said: “These acts of arson occurred on the paths [in the zone] taken by stalkers.

“Stalkers demonstrate on social media how they set fire to these places.”

Last week the Swiss monitor IQAi said Kiev had the highest level of air contamination of major world cities.

The capital came ahead of Hangzhou, Chongqing and Shanghai in China.

Ukraine’s health ministry said: “Smog has been formed in Kiev and Kiev region.

“It does not carry a chemical or radiological threat, the radiation background is within normal limits.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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