Hungary Toxic Sludge Flood Reaches Danube River

photo: AP Photo/MTI, Sandor H. Szabo

The flood of toxic red sludge, which burst forth from a containment pond in Ajka, Hungary and covered several villages earlier in the week, reached a branch of the River Danube today. According to the head of the local disaster relief services, it remains about 10 kilometers from the main branch of the river as of this morning. There are reports of "sporadic fish death" there; all the fish in the Marcal River, which was hit first, have been killed (Reuters).

hungary sludge flood photo

photo: AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Gábor Figeczky, acting CEO of WWF-Hungary (who is from one of the villages hit by the toxic flood, Kolontar), says its currently impossible to estimate the full magnitude of damage done to the environment.

Sludge Came Through Villages Head High
Describing the flood, he said,

The red sludge is going down the riverbed of Torna stream. The volume is considerable because it came through at about two meters high; this is known because all the houses and trees are red up to two meters.

It came through with a high pressure because trees and fences have been knocked out. The sludge is going down. I have come from a house in which the red sludge is waist high. Everybody is wearing masks and gloves as they are shoveling the red sludge. The air is poisoned as well. It is very irritating to breath in.

The sludge is highly alkaline, with a pH level up to 13, and contains heavy metals. If ingested it is toxic and inhaling the dust can cause lung cancer.

Figeczky went on to say that hunters are collecting dead and injured animals including deers, foxes, rabbits and wild boar. Locals are collecting injured surviving pets and livestock in wheelbarrows, because their injuries prevent them moving on their own.

To give you a further sense of the destruction--which could take up to a year to fully clean up--check out these photos:

hungary sludge flood photo

hungary sludge flood photo

hungary sludge flood photo

top to bottom: AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky, AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky, AP Photo/MTI, Sandor H. Szabo
Worst-Affected Villages Likely to Be Abandoned
As for the long term consequences for the villages themselves, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Physorg, "Unfortunately my impression is that any reconstruction beyond the bridge [in Kolontar, which was swept away], would be useless. It'll probably be necessary to clear a new area for the villages and pull down the destroyed part for good. It'll be impossible for people to live here."

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More on Industrial Accidents:
Hungary Declares State of Emergency As Toxic Industrial Sludge Covers Villages (Photos)
8 Worst Mad-made Environmental Disasters of All Time
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