Photos: NASA Earth Observatory
The river of sludge that flooded across the Hungarian countryside last week quickly became a full-throttle environmental catastrophe, killing eight people -- four of them drowned -- and doing untold damage to local ecosystems and private property. It eventually reached the Danube River, one of the main waterways in Europe. The toxic sludge, a byproduct of the aluminum manufacturing process, is striking for its orange-red coloration, which is even more striking when seen from space. NASA satellites took some images of the disaster, one of which is seen above. Here's another one that shows the spill in the context of the entire region:
Here's NASA explaining the images:
On October 9, 2010, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image of the area. The top image shows a close-up of the alumina plant and closest villages. The bottom image shows the wider region.
The alumina plant appears along the right edge of both images, and incorporates both bright blue and brick red reservoirs. The breach of the retaining wall is apparent in the close-up view. Sludge cut a channel through the northwest corner of the waste reservoir and spread onto nearby fields.
The sludge forms a red-orange streak running west from the plant. The wide-area view shows the spill thinning but remaining discernible for several kilometers to the west. The New York Times reported that the stream nearest the plant empties into larger rivers. The BBC reported that authorities were pouring plaster into the Marcal River in hopes of preventing the sludge from reaching the Danube River.Anyhow, those images should give you an idea as to the tragic scope of this preventable accident.
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