KIEV, June 17 (Xinhua) -- The massive fire that had been raging for almost nine days at a fuel depot outside the Ukrainian capital could badly affect the environment and human health through breaking environmental balance and reducing air quality, a Ukrainian ecologist warned here Wednesday.
"The burning of the reservoirs with gasoline has resulted in the emission of a huge amount of heat energy, upsetting the balance of the environment," Tatiana Tymochko, head of the Ukrainian Ecological League, told Xinhua in a written interview.
The blaze, which has engulfed the fuel depot near Vasylkiv town, 38 km south of Kiev, was believed to be the biggest in Ukraine over the past 50 years. Emergency services have fully extinguished the fire after nine days in the battle and the fire claimed the lives of five people and injured 15 others, authorities said earlier Wednesday.
Local ecologists estimated that it has burned at least 14,000 tons of oil products.
The pollution of the atmosphere with toxic emissions from burning oil products will likely trigger acid rains, which have a devastating impact on the environment, the ecologist said.
"Acid rains could leave severe burns on the plants and could damage the root system of the plants, while penetrating into the soil," she said, adding that the aquatic life can be also at risk following the acid rainfall.
"Acidification of water in natural water reservoirs may be accompanied by the loss of fish and other aquatic organisms," Tymochko said.
Besides, she pointed out that the smoke from the fire, which is contaminated with sulfur dioxide, may have harmful effects on human health after getting into the body.
"Sulfur dioxide, which is easily absorbed through the larynx and trachea, may irritate the upper respiratory tract. The effect of sulfur dioxide can cause respiratory disease resembling bronchitis," Tymochko said.
She added that another toxic substance, which is released during the combustion of petroleum products -- benzopyrene, may increase the risk of lung cancer.
"Benzopyrene is a very powerful carcinogen, so the smoke from the fuel depot fire is extremely toxic," the ecologist said, advising people, who live close to the site of the fire, to stay indoors and tightly close all the windows and doors in their homes.
In the mean time, Tymochko emphasized that the fire will have a negative impact only on areas close to the site of the disaster, dispelling fears that the smoke plume from the blaze may affect other areas in Ukraine or even abroad.
"The blaze has affected the territory close to the fire site and some districts of Kiev. There is no risk of contamination outside Ukraine," she said.