Hungary clears up after toxic spill with rivers at risk

Wed Oct 6, 2010 4:01pm GMT

By Marton Dunai

KOLONTAR, Hungary (Reuters) - Emergency workers in Hungary battled on Wednesday to keep a tide of toxic red sludge that spilt from an alumina plant from reaching the Raba and Danube rivers.

Interior Minister Sandor Pinter told reporters the sludge -- which poured from the alumina factory's containment pond on Monday and rushed through villages, killing four people, injuring 120 and leaving 3 missing -- had so far been prevented from reaching the rivers.

Hungary declared a state of emergency in three counties after the sludge -- waste produced during bauxite refining which has a strong caustic effect and heavy metal content -- hit the villages of Kolontar, Devecser and others.

The cause of the spill is not known.

"We hope we will be able to contain this," Pinter said. "At this moment we can handle the alkaline content in the river Marcal, it has not reached the river Raba."

The Marcal flows into the Raba, which flows into the Danube, a major European waterway.

Pinter said Hungary had contacted the European Union about the spill and was examining the possibility of assistance.

The village of Kolontar lies nearest to the burst reservoir of the Ajkai Timfoldgyar Zrt plant, owned by MAL Zrt.   Continued...

<p>A man walks on toxic sludge in the flooded village of Kolontar, 150 km (93 miles) west of Budapest October 6, 2010. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo</p>
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