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Town in Hungary buried in toxic mud, three dead and more missing

Bryan Alaspa's picture

The Hungarian government has labeled a disaster that buried the Veszprem, Gyor-Moson-Sopron and Vas counties an ecological catastropher. Tons of a toxic sludge, a by-product of aluminum production, has buried the town and killed at least three people. A number of residents, however, are still missing. So far the number of injured numbered about 120.

A toxic mixture

The sludge contains what are known as heavy metals. The substance is toxic and lethal if ingested. Those who have come forward with injuries are showing signs of being burnt as the sludge seeped through their clothing. At least two of those being treated for injuries are in life-threatening condition. The dead, so far, seem to be an elderly woman, a young man and a 3-year-old child.

The burns from the sludge can actually take a couple of days to appear. At first the burns may not look life-threatening but the burns may sink deeper into the skin and become lethal as the days go by.

Stopping the disaster

Authorities have a plan in place to try and stop the sludge. They are pouring hundreds of tons of plaster into the Marcal river. The plaster binds with the sludge and it stops it from flowing.

Estimates from the authorities in Hungary say that about 35.3 million cubic feet of the sludge has leaked from a reservoir. This has affected an area approximately 15.4 square miles. There are fears that the flow of sludge already leaked could reach the Raba and Danube rivers, both major waterways.

Rescuers and local authorities have said that about 390 residents have been relocated. 100 more had to be rescued from the flooded towns.

Local environmentalists have stated that they have repeatedly warned the Hungarian government about the risks posed from the reservoir of toxic material. In 2003 they submitted a report that estimated there was 30 million tons worth of toxic sludge in the reservoir. The toxic mud has been accumulating for decades.

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