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Hungary

Villagers evacuated over fears of second toxic flood

Photo: Reuters/Peter Somogyi-Toth

Authorities in Hungary evacuated 800 people from Kolontar on Saturday as a second flood of toxic sludge threatened to flood the western village. Cracks had appeared in a reservoir of an aluminium processing plant holding around 500,000 cubic metres of the red toxic waste, which is a by-product of aluminium production.

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Villagers were told to evacuate at dawn and taken by bus to Ajka, the nearest major city. Authorities warned residents in the nearby village of Devecser to be ready to be moved if necessary.

“If the dyke of the reservoir gives way, about 500,000 cubic metres will be released. Several cracks are visible from the north side of the reservoir,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday.

They basically saved the Danube by pouring tons and tons of plaster into it to neutralise the alkaline level.

Q&A - Correspondent Gulliver Cragg

"If another vat breaks it could well be that more or less the same thing happens again. There’s not very much you can do to stop the sludge from flowing once it starts flowing," says correspondent Gulliver Cragg.

It is thought that the crack is around seven centimetres wide.

"The latest report today was that at the point where the contaminated water was flowing into the Danube it was at something like 8.4 [pH level] which is only a little bit above safe levels of alkaline. The government says it is completely safe. Greenpeace has said it’s certainly not as bad as it could have been, although it’s still going to be dangerous for some fish," says Cragg, who's in Devecser.

"We’ve heard reports that one of the owners of Mal is actually in Devecser today not to console the afflicted families but to protect his property in case of a law suit against him that might require him to give up all of his property in order to pay compensation to the victims. Mal is actually owned by three of the richest men in Hungary."

On 4 October the first flood of the toxic material released 1.1 millon cubic metres killing seven people and injuring many more.

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