Hungarian Toxic Sludge Leak "Ecological Disaster" - Reaches Danube River
2010-10-08 0:00


A lethal torrent of toxic red sludge from a factory has engulfed towns in Hungary, drowning and burning villagers

Hungarian toxic sludge reaches Danube river

Hungary's toxic sludge spill, which has killed four people, reached the Danube river, threatening to contaminate the waterway's entire ecosystem, officials have said.

The sludge reached the Danube's Mosoni Branch, about six miles from the main branch of the river this morning, according to Tibor Dobson, head of the disaster relief services.

The industrial accident triggered by the collapse of walls at the factory reservoir on Monday has been described as an ecological disaster and is now threatening the entire ecosystem of the Danube, Europe's second longest river which runs from Hungary through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine before flowing into the Black Sea.

Hungarian villagers whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by the wave that poured out of an aluminium plant reservoir earlier this week have demanded compensation from the company blamed for the disaster.

Authorities have ordered a criminal inquiry into the accident, which killed at least four people, injured 120 and left three people missing.

After bursting from the reservoir and flooding three villages on Monday, the sludge - a waste product of aluminium production that can contain heavy metals - ended up in the Marcal River, part of the tributary system feeding the Danube, some 45 miles to the north.

It is feared it could contaminate the Danube, one of Europe's biggest rivers.

Angry villagers gathered outside the mayor's office in Kolontar, as they berated a senior official of MAL Rt., the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company that owns the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant, demanding compensation.

Local officials said 34 homes in the village were uninhabitable. However, furious residents said the disaster had destroyed the whole community by making their real estate valueless.

"The whole settlement should be bulldozed into the ground," bellowed Janos Potza, straining to be heard above his neighbours. "There's no point for anyone to go back home."

"Those who can, will move out of Kolontar. From now on, this is a dead town," fumed Beata Gasko Monek.

Visibly shaken, Jozsef Deak, the company's operations manager, said it would not shy away from taking responsibility if found guilty. He spoke from the passenger seat of a police cruiser, using its speaker system as villagers crowded around.

Two days after the red torrent disgorged an estimated 35 million cubic feet of toxic waste, it was not known why part of the reservoir collapsed.

National Police Chief Jozsef Hatala was heading the investigation into the spill because of its importance and complexity, police spokeswoman Monika Benyi said. Investigators would look into whether on-the-job carelessness was a factor, she said.

The huge reservoir, more than 1,000 feet long and 1,500 feet wide, was no longer leaking and a triple-tiered protective wall was being built around its damaged section.


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