Toxic sludge kills three in Hungary
Budapest, Hungary – A state of emergency was declared in three western counties after the chemical waste burst from a reservoir at an alumina plant.
Four people have died, with 120 injured. Six more are missing.
At least seven villages and towns are affected including Devecser, where the torrent was two metres edeep.
The flood swept cars from roads and damaged bridges and houses, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.
The sludge – a mixture of water and mining waste containing heavy metals – is considered hazardous, according to Hungary’s National Directorate General for Disaster Management (NDGDM).
With 7 000 people affected directly by the disaster, a state of emergency was declared in the county of Veszprem where the spill occurred, and Gyor-Moson-Sopron and Vas, where the sludge appeared to be heading.
At least 390 residents have been relocated and 110 rescued from flooded areas, the NDGDM said. Plaster has been poured into the Marcal river in a bid to bind the sludge and stop further flooding.
Dr Attila Nyikos, of the NDGDM said that a police investigation had been opened and tests were still being carried out to determine the environmental impact of the leak.
Zoltan Illes, state secretary for the environment ministry, visited Kolontar yesterday and described the flood as the worst chemical accident in Hungary’s history.
An alert has been declared on both the Marcal and Torna rivers, and Illes said workers were “desperately” trying to stop contamination of the Raba and Danube rivers.
Tamas Toldi, mayor of Devecser, told MTI news agency that between 80 and 90 people had been taken to hospital with chemical burns.
Nyikos said the victims had probably been drowned by the sludge, which had flowed out with the speed of water.
Alumina, a synthetically produced aluminium oxide, is a white or nearly colourless crystalline substance that is used as a starting material for the smelting of aluminium metal.
It also serves as the raw material for a broad range of advanced ceramic products and as an active agent in chemical processing. (BBC)