Hungarian village evacuated as second wave of toxic sludge is set to spill from damaged reservoir
2010-10-10 0:00

From: dailymail.co.uk


Cracks have appeared on the north side of the reservoir wall of the alumina plant near Ajka, Hungary, forcing new evacuations.

* Officials now warn of toxic dust cloud and urge residents to wear face masks

* Death toll from the disaster rises to seven


Hungary's premier said today the northern wall of a red sludge reservoir which burst and flooded several towns with toxic waste is showing ever-larger cracks and is 'very likely' to collapse.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban described the situation as 'dramatic' and said the town of Kolontar, which sits next to the reservoir and was badly damaged in Monday's flood, was evacuated earlier today as a precaution.

This is because engineers believe that the growing cracks could cause a whole side of the enormous container to collapse. The town has a population of about 800.

In neighbouring Devecser, with a population of 5,300 and next after Kolontar in the likely path of a new sludge deluge, police asked residents to put their most essential belongings into a single bag and prepare for possible evacuation.

At least seven people died and more than 120 were injured when a corner of the metals plant reservoir gave way and up to 700,000 cubic meters (184 million gallons) of toxic waste flooded several towns in western Hungary.


An aerial view of the broken dam that caused a toxic red sludge spill in western Hungary


The village of Kolontar has been evacuated amid fears of a second spillage of caustic effluent



Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has warned that a wall in the reservoir is 'likely' to collapse
As the sludge from the initial spill dries out it is turning to dust and there are fears of widespread breathing problems as a result.

The Hungarian Government has appealed to its citizens not to flee the country as fears grew of a cloud of toxic airborne dust following the massive industrial spillage.

But speaking at a press conference in Ajka, prime minister Orban admitted another 500,000 cubic metres of sludge could now escpae from the reservoir after cracks appeared in a wall.

"It's in very bad shape and our estimation is that the wall could fall down," he said. "It's very likely that it will happen... One consequence is that human lives could be in danger."

"Behind this tragedy some human errors and mistakes must exist. We will reveal all of that and the consequences will be very severe, tough, as much you can imagine," he added.

Hungary's Environment Minister, Zoltan IIIes, said the effluent does have 'high content of heavy metals', some of which can cause cancer.

With dryer weather over the past two days, the caustic mud is turning to dust, which can cause respiratory problems, Mr Illes added.

'Wind can blow... that heavy metal contamination through the respiratory system,' he said.

Residents near the flood area have been urged to wear face masks.
Earlier in the day though local officials said the river Danube is continuing to absorb the sludge spill without any immediate harm.

Despite the fact the amount of slurry deposited in the west of the county is now as great as the quantity of oil which escaped into the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year, the authorities had said the consequences of the disaster were not as extreme as had been feared.

On Friday government officials announced between 158 million and 184 million gallons of sludge had flown into three villages - almost equalling in a few hours the 200 million gallons of oil which gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for several months when BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded.


Tests: Officials in Hungary claim the Danube river is absorbing the sludge spill without any serious damage to the waterway


Safe: The pH of the water where the slurry entered the river was recorded at around 9 - much lower than the 13.5 measured in local waterways


Emergency effort: Plaster is being dumped into the River Marcal in order to neutralise the pollution in Koronco


Commenting on the toxic spill in Hungary, Philip Weller, head of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube, had told the AP news agency: 'The consequences do not seem to be that dramatic.'
The pH level of water were the slurry was entering the Danube, the EU's longest river, was recorded at 9 on Friday, Hungarian rescue agency spokesman Tibor Dobso said - well below the 13.5 measured in local waterways.

The slurry entered the Danube on Thursday and moved downstream today toward Hungary's immediate neighbours, Croatia, Serbia and Romania.

Monitors were taking samples every few hours on Friday to measure damage from the spill but the river appeared to be absorbing the blow due to its huge volume of water, with no reports of serious damage to its main branch.

Greenpeace though told reporters in Vienna earlier today that analysis of the spill showed 'surprisingly high' levels of arsenic and mercury.


Seeing red: A pet dog caught up in the toxic mud after villages were flooded


Initial estimations claim roughly 50 tons of arsenic, 300 tons of chrome and half a ton of mercury was set free in the accident.

Analysis of water in a canal near the spill, for example, found arsenic levels 25 times the limit for drinking water.

Hungary's state secretary for the environment, Zoltan Illes, also said warmer weather over the past two days meant the caustic mud was increasingly turning to airborne dust.

'Wind can blow... that heavy metal contamination through the respiratory system,' he said.

Government emergency services officials have urged residents near the toxic flood area to wear face masks as a result.

It has also been confirmed a second industrial reservoir at the spill site was drained on Friday to prevent further disaster.

Mr Dobson told the MTI news agency that 3.5 million cubic feet of fluid from a storage pond close to the burst reservoir was being gradually released into a local river already declared dead.

Gypsum was being dropped into the Marcal River from helicopters to neutralise the alkaline effect of the fluid, he said.

It is still not known what caused a section of the reservoir to collapse, unleashing a torrent of sludge.

Three people are still missing, while more than 150 were treated for burns and other injuries - 10 of which are still in a serious condition.

Hungary toxic spill village evacuated


Source: dailymail.co.uk



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