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Over 160 in hospital after phosphorus spill in west Ukraine

KIEV, July 20 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's Health Ministry said Friday 164 people, including 34 children, have been hospitalized since a toxic yellow phosphorus spill in the west of the country Monday, and more patients are expected.

A freight train carrying yellow phosphorus derailed and caught fire in the Lvov Region late Monday. Authorities called the accident the country's worst man-made disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl tragedy, but insisted that no neighboring countries were at risk.

Medics are checking up on local residents, the ministry said, adding that about 800 people have been evacuated from the affected area. The administration in the city of Lvov said 96 residential areas were in a potentially dangerous zone.

The president has left for the region and will visit the site, nearby households and the injured in the hospital, the presidential press office said adding that Viktor Yushchenko would also personally monitor relief and cleanup efforts.

Viktor Bondar, deputy head of the presidential secretariat, quoted Yushchenko as saying Friday that the transport and communications minister's resignation in the wake of the disaster would only be logical.

"The president of Ukraine voiced his position when he spoke to the government and gave it a clear signal that such ministers are out of place in the government and political system as a whole," Bondar said.

Mykola Rudkovskiy, the transport minister, moved Wednesday to disavow responsibility for the disaster, saying an earlier inspection had shown the track to be in good condition and suggested it was the railway cars, which were in transit from Kazakhstan to Poland, that were faulty.

But Bondar said Friday the transportation of yellow phosphorus had been conducted in violation of safety rules. He said in summer the highly inflammable substance should have to be transported at night.

"... phosphorus catch fire at a temperature of over plus 30 degrees Celsius (over 86 F(). Air temperature that day was 40 degrees above zero (104 F()," Bondar said.

Authorities said Friday four of the 15 derailed cars had been recovered, and the recovery of a fifth was in progress.

The emergencies ministry said the recovered undamaged cars with phosphorus would be sent back to the producer in Kazakhstan via Russia, which had been coordinated with officials in both countries.

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