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Bush fire put out near Pakistani nuclear facility

Written by: Staff

ISLAMABAD, May 17 (Reuters) Firefighters put out a bush fire near a Pakistani nuclear facility in central Punjab province without any loss of life or damage to property, officials at the facility told Reuters today.

The fire, which started on late Monday night, was brought under control after 20 hours, raising a scare over safety at the uranium extraction plant in Dera Ghazi Khan district, some 350 km southwest of Islamabad.

''The fire was at a distance of approximately 2.5 km from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) facility,'' an official said, adding that the blaze was confined to a forested area in the hills outside the PAEC grounds.

''The fire may have been sparked by excessively hot weather as temperatures rose over 40 degree Celsius,'' he told Reuters.

The Foreign Ministry also sought to allay concerns.

''There is absolutely no question of a radiation leak since the bush fire was not in the facilities of PAEC,'' said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam.

Earlier worries over safety at the facilities prompted residents of the nearby village of Baghalchur to file a case against PAEC, out of fear that it was dumping nuclear waste in the area. The proceedings were being conducted in camera.

''Nuclear waste is being disposed of in accordance with international practices and there is no danger of radiation to the villagers,'' a PAEC spokesman said.

Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998 and many aspects of its nuclear programme remain secret.


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