After relentless Russian shelling, a fire broke out at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine Thursday, dominating cable news and sparking global fears of a nuclear disaster.
CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC all shifted into breaking news mode with wall-to-wall coverage as the situation unfolded.
“This is closed-circuit video of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper said. “It’s been under attack for several days from Russian attacks and now it is said to be on fire.”
The Associated Press reported that shells were falling directly onto the plant, igniting a fire at one of its six reactors as Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up his assault on Ukraine.
The flames at the nuclear power plant, which is Europe’s largest, sparked fears that radiation could leak from the damaged facility.
Late Thursday, White House officials told media outlets there were “no indications of elevated levels of radiation” at the Zaporizhzhia facility.
Meantime, Fox News quoted Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba as saying, if this plant blows up, it will be “ten times worse than Chernobyl.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin of “nuclear terror” and trying to “repeat” the Chernobyl disaster.
“No country other than Russia has ever fired on nuclear power units. This is the first time in our history. In the history of mankind. The terrorist state now resorted to nuclear terror,” Zelenskyy said in a video message.
The AP described the situation as “dire” and said Zelenskyy had informed the leaders of the U.S., Britain, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency of the potential for disaster.
“If there is an explosion – that’s the end for everyone. The end for Europe. The evacuation of Europe,” Zelenskyy said in his speech in the middle of the night. “Only urgent action by Europe can stop the Russian troops. Do not allow the death of Europe from a catastrophe at a nuclear power station.”