Train Derails in Ukraine, Releasing Toxic Cloud

Accident evokes Chernobyl, but officials downplay danger
By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User
Posted Jul 17, 2007 6:32 PM CDT
Cars of a freight train, which was traveling from Kazakhstan to Poland and derailed Monday evening continue to burn near Lviv on the Polish border, Tuesday, July 17, 2007. Of the train's 58 cars, 15 overturned...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A freight train derailed in western Ukraine, releasing a toxic cloud of yellow phosphorus and igniting fears of another Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the AP reports. Twenty people were poisoned and hospitalized, and more than 800 were evacuated from their homes. Rescuers had to extinguish a fire that created a gas cloud over 14 villages in a 35-square-mile area.

Thousands of villagers were advised to stay indoors and refrain from drinking water from wells or consuming local produce. The deputy prime minister called the accident a "disaster," but other officials sought to minimize it: "The cloud of a toxic gas has dispersed, and there is no threat to people's lives," a spokesperson said.