Hungarian town evacuated in new toxic-waste leak fear

Hungarian town evacuated in new toxic-waste leak fear

Disaster management officials said Kolontar, the Hungarian town next to the red sludge reservoir which flooded the area, is being evacuated due to fears of a new leak of toxic waste.

Spokesman Tibor Dobson said today that experts fear the walls of the reservoir may weaken further and lead to more leakage, but that no new waste had escaped from the huge container so far.

The evacuation of the town of 800 people began before dawn.

In neighbouring Devecser, with a population of 5,300 and next after Kolontar in the likely path of a new sludge deluge, police asked residents to put their most essential belongings into a single bag and prepare for possible evacuation.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban was scheduled to hold a news conference in Ajka, a city near Kolontar where some of its residents were being transported in buses.

At least seven people died and more than 120 were injured as up to 700,000 cubic metres of toxic waste flooded several towns in western Hungary when the walls of a reservoir of a metals plant gave way on Monday.

The concentration of toxic heavy metals where Hungary’s red sludge spill entered the Danube has dropped to the level allowed in drinking water, authorities said, easing fears that Europe’s second longest river would be significantly polluted.

The red sludge devastated streams and rivers near the spill site and entered the Danube on Thursday, moving downstream toward Croatia, Serbia and Romania.

Monitors were taking samples every few hours to measure damage from the spill but the sheer volume of water in the Danube appeared to be blunting the red sludge’s immediate impact.

Test results released by Hungary’s disaster agency show the pH level of the water where the slurry entered the Danube was under 9 – well below the 13.5 measured earlier in local waterways near the site of the catastrophe. That is diluted enough to prevent any biological damage, Interior Minister Sandor Pinter said.

Despite the apparent good news, the risk of pervasive and lasting environmental damage remained at the site of the spill, with Greenpeace presenting laboratory tests that it said showed high concentrations of heavy metals in the sludge.

The disaster’s confirmed death toll rose from four to seven. An 81-year-old man died from injuries sustained in the torrent and two bodies were found on Friday on the outskirts of Devecser. The unidentified victims were likely two of three Kolontar residents still missing.

The location of the bodies suggested they were swept over two miles by the torrent.

More on this topic

No charges against Hungary sludge factory bossNo charges against Hungary sludge factory boss

Plant boss arrested in connection with toxic spillPlant boss arrested in connection with toxic spill

Red sludge reservoir cracks 'stable'Red sludge reservoir cracks 'stable'

Toxic sludge barrier ‘will fail’, says officialToxic sludge barrier ‘will fail’, says official

More in this Section

Several missing after deadly floods and landslides hit BrazilSeveral missing after deadly floods and landslides hit Brazil

Boris Johnson: Britain will become global, trail-blazing country after BrexitBoris Johnson: Britain will become global, trail-blazing country after Brexit

Sir David Attenborough warns climate action hindered by short government termsSir David Attenborough warns climate action hindered by short government terms

Turkish president visits quake scene and denies nation was unpreparedTurkish president visits quake scene and denies nation was unprepared


Lifestyle

Food news with Joe McNameeThe Menu: Upcoming food highlights

THE health properties of tea have long been advertised. “It maketh the body active and lusty” a 1660 promotion suggested. However, before you dunk your teabag into a mug of steaming water, spare a thought for the environment. Some have polypropylene to help to seal them and it doesn’t decompose.Storm in a teacup: Top 8 loose-leaf teas

Bestselling author Isabel Allende talks to Rowena Walsh about life, grief, and why it’s never too late to fall in loveIsabel Allende: It's never too late to fall in love

Cliffs of Moher Retreat owner Michelle Moroney has written a book on finding self-worth and stepping back from our 24/7 lives. She talks to Marjorie Brennan about the need to unwindMichelle Moroney highlights the need to take stock of our lives

More From The Irish Examiner