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Yushchenko Pays Visit to Disaster Site

KIEV -- Authorities have checked 16,000 people for symptoms of chemical poisoning following a train derailment that ignited tankers loaded with yellow phosphorous in western Ukraine, the country's health minister said Friday.

Doctors examined thousands of emergency workers and residents in the Lviv region, where the accident occurred, Yuriy Haydayev said. More than 180 people remained hospitalized Friday, including 34 children.

Haydayev said not all sent to hospitals had serious symptoms. "We hospitalized every child feeling discomfort in the eyes or throat, at their parents' insistence, but this does not mean they were poisoned," he said.

No deaths have been reported.

The accident occurred June 16, when a freight train derailed outside Lviv, near the Polish border. Six tanker cars containing yellow phosphorus caught fire, sending noxious fumes over 90 square kilometers.

President Viktor Yushchenko has criticized the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych over its response to the accident, suggesting that officials deliberately understated the health threat.

Yushchenko interrupted his vacation in Crimea on Friday to visit the site of the accident, talk with residents and visit hospitals in the area.

"In three to four days we will complete the neutralization of this accident's consequences," Yushchenko told residents of Ozhydiv, one of more than a dozen affected villages.

Yushchenko called for the dismissal of Transport Minister Mykola Rudkovsky. The president "gave a clear signal that there is no place for such ministers in the Ukrainian government," said his deputy chief of staff, Viktor Bondar.

Rudkovsky said Thursday that pressure valves were broken on the aging tanker cars, which should have been decommissioned five years ago.

The Emergency Ministry said rescuers had righted three of 15 overturned tanker cars, preparing to transport them back to Kazakhstan, where they originated.

The move was agreed upon by Kazakhstan and Russia, through which it is to be transported, said Emergency Minister Nestor Shufrych.

(The Moscow Times 23.vii.07)

 
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