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Hungary: Chemical Waste Reservoir Still Dangerous

As it was widely reported, a flood of red sludge hit villages in Western Hungary earlier this week. The disaster caused by a spill of toxic material from an alumina plant reservoir affected seven villages in the area: Tüskevár, Kolontár, Kisberzseny, Somlóvásárhely, Apácatorna, Devecser, Somlójenő. (A zoomed-in map with the reservoir is here.)

According to a Saturday report [HUN] of the Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság, the number of casualties is seven, one person is still missing. Many of the inhabitants were burnt by the toxic mud flowing through the village.

In need of urgent help

The Hungarian government started a website with information on the red sludge, the arrangements made and the situation in the area. By Saturday, the inhabitants of Kolontár have been evacuated because of the risk of a new spill. At an on-site press conference, the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said: “[…] late last night cracks appeared in the northern wall of the reservoir; it is assumed that there is a danger of another failure. Experts have analysed the condition of the wall and have determined that there is a real risk that the wall would collapse and that the red sludge behind it would spill out. […]”

The press release also stated that some 750 people have been evacuated from Kolontár because of the risk of another spill, law enforcement forces are standing by in case the nearest settlement Devecser with its 6000 inhabitants needs to be evacuated as well. Meanwhile, dams are being built to protect the residents.

The officials have also set up a national bank account called the Hungarian Relief Fund. George Soros, a Hungarian-American businessman, sent $1 million to the victims of the red sludge, and George Pataki, former governor of New York of Hungarian descent, addressed every Hungarian in the world to help the families in need.

The video below also includes information for those who would like to help the victims. The footage was shot by a Hungarian television channel's crew right after the flood hit the settlements: people were covered with the red sludge, houses were blasted by the wave of the toxic spill.

Tamás Mészáros, blogging on the spot, wrote this [HUN] on Wednesday:

[…] Actually, there are many cars running on the small road between Kolontár and Devecser. Many cars of relief organizations can be seen. Over Kolontár, a police chopper is circling round in the air. Army aid vans, disaster units, police cars and Duna TV are also on the spot. They are shooting near the Kolontár community center. Policemen stand at the crossing. Army aid trucks are arriving to the settlement. The view is very depressing. Everything's full of the red monster. In the ditch by the road, the red monster is still flowing down. People in chemical protection clothing are going down to the houses affected by the disaster. On the balcony of the community center there are many people with laptops in their hands. Some are translating into English. Mineral water is piled up at the entrance. In the room inside, there are many clothes and rubber boots in one pile. Outside Kolontár, there are many metal objects, wheels and household gears by the road. […]

Tamás also reported [HUN] on Saturday's evacuation due to the mud drying and turning into floating powder. This may also be toxic, so he had to wear a mask when buying food.

He wrote [HUN] they still needed rubber boots, blankets, sleeping bags and help with the cleaning.

A Facebook group [HUN] was set up to collect information about what was missing from the settlements affected; Magdi Novák's blog is doing the same.

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