Toxic air from Ukraine train derailment continues to make people sick

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Map of Ukraine highlighting the location of Lviv Oblast and with red dot marking location of Lviv.

A freight train in Lviv, Ukraine derailed, caught fire, and spilled a toxic chemical, releasing dangerous fumes into the air early Tuesday morning (local time), and people who live near the site of the crash are still becoming sick. Officials say that the toxic cloud, surrounding at least 14 villages near the scene, is at least 23% above benign levels.

So far 70 people, including 19 children, have been hospitalized after being poisoned by the fumes from train cars filled with yellow phosphorous. That number is up from the 15 seeking medical attention on Tuesday.

"I can say we have resolved the situation by extinguishing those tankers. Now we need to talk about dealing with the aftermath of this breakdown," said Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's Prime Minister.

"This is a dangerous substance ... It is highly flammable and causes burns and choking," said Greenpeace Russia toxic gas expert, Alexei Kiselev.

The European Union has stated that they will continue to monitor the gas cloud because toxic gas clouds do not "respect borders" of countries and will travel.

The train was shipping cargo from Kazakhstan to Poland when it derailed. Authorities have ruled out sabotage and terrorism from playing a role in the crash and are still investigating the accident. At least 15 cars, of the 58 the train was pulling, derailed or were overturned.

Water and local crops are said to not be affected by the chemical spill.