|A Greenpeace activist takes a sample of the toxic sludge in a town near Ajkai, 160 km (100 miles) southwest of Budapest October 5, 2010. Hungary declared a state of emergency in three counties on Tuesday, a day after a torrent of toxic red sludge from an alumina plant tore through nearby villages, killing four people and injuring 120. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
BUDAPEST, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The immediate flood threat to residents of three western Hungarian counties triggered by millions of gallons of red mud, a caustic aluminum industry byproduct, is over, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said on Tuesday afternoon.
Four people including two children were killed, five are still missing and over 100 others remain hospitalized as the mud had inundated three villages, the minister said, adding that the corrosive material is still threatening waterways.
State Secretary for the Environment Zoltan Illes announced that all production by the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trading Company (MAL), owner of the reservoir, had been halted.
Defense Committee Chair Jeno Lasztovicza reported that about half a million gallons of the toxic mud still in the damaged containment reservoir was being transferred to a safer place to relieve pressure on the reservoir and prevent any additional breakthroughs.
He also advised residents to refrain from eating any crops that came into contact with the mud. Crops in a 40-square-kilometer area are believed to be at risk.
Police are investigating the disaster, while MAL has denied responsibility. Illes, speaking in the village of Kolontar, a disaster site, suggested that an overloaded containment reservoir may have contributed to the ecological disaster.
MAL managers Zoltan Bakonyi and Lajos Tolnay claimed that the red mud is not a hazardous material, and that actual damage is far less than reported.
Lasztovicza, on the other hand, has said that the soil will have to be removed as will the plaster on the outside of residents ' homes unless the red mud can be thoroughly washed off.
Firefighters and armed forces units, working with water management experts, are spreading calcium nitrates and magnesium nitrates through the Marcal River in an effort to neutralize the highly corrosive mud and prevent the contaminants from reaching the Danube.
Hungarian PM blames human error for red mud disaster
BUDAPEST, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban blamed human error for the devastating torrent of caustic red mud that flooded three villages, killed four, left over a hundred people hospitalized and five missing, and is still threatening the ecology of Hungary's waterways.
At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, Orban said the mud was not a radiation hazard but warned residents against consuming any local crops. He ordered his interior minister, Sandor Pinter, to ascertain both criminal and financial responsibility. Full story
Death toll rises to four in red mud spill in Hungary, emergency announced
BUDAPEST, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from a dousing of liquid red mud, a caustic bauxite residue that broke through a container barrier inundating several western Hungarian villages, rose to four as of Tuesday morning when the body of a one-year-old baby was discovered.
Earlier, a three-year-old was found dead in his home in the hamlet of Kolontar, after millions of gallons (one million cubic meters) of the caustic liquid (pH 13) flooded the homes in the village, causing the government to declare a state of emergency in three counties. Full story