Toll of the phosphor accident in Ukraine still rising

Friday, July 20, 2007

Between 143 and 152 people have now been hospitalized in the wake of Monday's train derailment near Lviv, Ukraine, and subsequent phosporous cloud. According to the Ukrainian Healthcare Ministry's spokesperson, Igor Gerych, 43 of the injured are children, 13 are firemen and three are medical personnel. None are considered to be in mortal danger, yet some cases remain at medium risk level.

Nearly 400 people are involved with the clean-up operations. Among them are military specialists for chemical warfare. The Ukrainian Army alert state was raised to “high readiness” state on Tuesday, when the scale of the accident became clear. 27 medical brigades, 13 consultants and seven specialists are inspecting the surrounding inhabited areas.

Map highlighting Lviv and the Lviv Oblast.

Two of the fifteen phosphor containers that were involved in the accident have been raised and put on new transports; nine of them need more work to treat leaking and damaged areas. All containers are to be transported to a more secure location by Saturday.

The situation on the ground appears to be confusing. Political TV channel, Kanal 5, reports that the village closest to the accident, Ozhidovo, is still requesting volunteers to send medicines and water, as they do not have any. Journalists of three TV channels (Inter, Novyj Kanal, ICTV) needed medical care themselves after being in the village.

TV channel, UT-1 reports this evening that the Ukranian President, Viktor Yushchenko, has called an urgent meeting of the National Security Council.

The accident appears to be likely to become a topic of contention in the long-standing rivalry between the President and the Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Yesterday, the President publicly criticized the government’s work.

Politicization of the disaster is likely to be the main reason behind the extreme differences among the versions of the Ukrainian media. Some declared the accident “ended” a few hours after it occurred, while others are still making alarming reports.

On July 18, the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) of the European Commission reportedly offered EU assistance to the Ukrainian government. The same sources say that Ukraine has not officially requested the help. Without a formal request, EU assistance cannot begin.

On the same date, NATO Spokesman in Brussels, Mr. James Appathurai, is reported by Podrobnosti to have declared that the Alliance is following the situation, and that NATO has not received any request for help from the Ukraine, either.