A Soviet expert says many years of work lie ahead to decontaminate the region where the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster occurred, where Pravda says 230,000 people now must live on specially shipped-in food.

Yuri Izrael, chairman of the State Committee for Hydrometeorology, was quoted in Monday's editions of the Communist Party daily newspaper as saying studies show residents can remain safely in the area as long as they do not eat locally produced food, especially meat and milk.Consumption of such foods would sharply increase the amount of radiation to which the people are exposed, he said. Soviet officials began shipping food into areas surrounding Chernobyl shortly after the explosion and fire at the plant on April 26, 1986, killed 31 people and sent a radioactive cloud around the Earth.