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Phosphorus train derails in Ukraine, produces toxic cloud

Romania authorities deal cautiously with Ukraine phosphorus accident

Marţi, 17 iulie 2007, 0:00

Photo: AP

A freight train carrying yellow phosphorus, an extremely toxic substance, derailed in an area close to Lviv, Western Ukraine on Monday evening, poisoning about 20 people and leading to the evacuation of about 800 from several villages in the area, Associated Press informs. The accident sparked a toxic cloud affecting some 14 settlements near the border with Poland.

The news of the event was spread on Tuesday as Ukrainian officials made their first public statements on the situation.

According to Radio Ukraine, President Viktor Yushchenko issued an order that a commission be set to produce a plan within three days to limit the “irreversible consequences” of the accident.

The train was transiting Ukraine from Kazakhstan to Poland. According to Ihor Krol, spokesman for the emergency situations ministry in Kiev, 15 of the 58 cars of the train were overturned and six caught fire in the accident. The fire was put of quickly and according to Ukrainian agency Unian army troops were sent to contain the situation.

But according to Ukrainian deputy PM Oleksandr Kuzmuk, quoted by AP, “it is an extraordinary event the consequences of which cannot be predicted”.

Yellow phosphorus is a highly flammable substance that ignites spontaneously when in contact with high-temperature air. It is also extremely toxic.

UPDATE: Romanian authorities received news of the event cautiously on Tuesday. An emergency government meeting was convened in the afternoon today and the Romanian Environment minister said shortly afterwards that Romania was not facing a crisis and Ukraine had yet to deliver official information in this regard.

According to the head of the National Meteorology Administration, Ion Sandu, said that no impact should be felt on Romania within the next 36 hours.

According to the dean of the Chemistry Faculty of the Bucharest University, Dumitru Oancea, a potential acid rain resulting from the toxic cloud would lead to skin injuries and respiratory problems.

UPDATE 2: The toxic cloud was moving towards Kiev on Tuesday afternoon, Ukrainian Defense Ministry sources told Russian agency

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