Chernobyl Workers Finally Allowed To Leave After Being Trapped By Russian Invasion
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Russian forces have finally allowed some of the people responsible for looking after the nuclear disaster site at Chernobyl to leave after a gruelling shift that has been ongoing since the invasion started on 24 February.
The exhausted workers will be allowed to go home for the first time in just about four weeks, having previously been trapped at the facility because of the Russian invasion.
Now, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – a United Nations body responsible for nuclear security – said that around half of those working in the area are being allowed to leave and have been replaced by other Ukrainian staff.
Russia has been in control of the waste facilities at the site since the early days of the invasion.
The power plant at Chernobyl went into meltdown in 1986, causing the world’s worst nuclear accident.
Two hundred staff work at the site, including security personnel and technical staff, and they’ve been on shift constantly since 23 February, having been unable to rotate out and becoming essentially trapped in the area by the Russian incursion.
The IAEA had made repeated calls for the staff to be allowed to rotate, claiming that exhaustion and constant pressure on workers could pose a threat to the safety of the site.
After 600 hours, 64 people have now been allowed to leave, the agency confirmed in a Facebook post.
They’ve been replaced by 46 ‘employee-volunteers’.
We don’t yet know whether the other staff have been able to rotate out yet.
In a statement, IAEA boss Rafael Grossi said: “They were there for far too long. I sincerely hope that remaining staff from this shift can also rotate soon.
“They had been carrying out their important work tasks under immensely stressful and tiring conditions in the presence of foreign military forces and without proper rest.”
There has been growing concern among experts as to the safety of Chernobyl and the rest of the nuclear sites in Ukraine.
The risk remains that they could be attacked in such a way that causes untold damage, including damage outside of Ukraine.
In the city of Sumy, an ammonia leak at a chemical plant has led to contamination of an area within 2.5 kilometres around the site, according to officials.
The governor of Sumy, Dmytro Zhyvytskyy explained that the plant – which is on the edge of the city, home to 263,000 people – has been under shelling in recent weeks.
He added: “For the centre of Sumy, there is no threat now, since the wind does not blow on the city.”
However, a village nearby called Novoselytsya is currently under threat as emergency workers fight to control the leak.