Toxic Sludge Floods Hungarian Villages, Killing Two

red toxic sludge photo
Photo: Lajos Nagy for AP Photo/MTI

It sounds like a plot-line from a bad 1950's sci-fi movie, but unfortunately there's nothing fiction about it. Several towns in western Hungary were flooded today with a toxic red sludge after the waste product from nearby aluminum processing plant broke through its containment reservoir -- killing two, causing dozens of injuries, and creating an environmental disaster on a scale yet to be fully realized.According to the Associated Press, the incident occurred when a reservoir brimming with the toxic sludge, a byproduct from aluminum processing, overtook the levee designed to contain it, flooding two villages 100 miles southwest of Budapest. The sludge is said to contain high levels of caustic material. Most of the approximately 120 people injured in the flood were treated for burns to the skin and eyes.

Two fatalities from the toxic flood have been reported. Seven individuals remain missing.

Army vehicles and at least forty troops have been called in to assist in the recovery efforts. Hundreds of residents from the affected villages have been forced to evacuate.

All told, an estimated 600,000-700,000 cubic meters was spilled from the plant's reservoir. The full scale of the damage has yet to be assessed, but the incident will likely have lasting consequences on the environment.

The images of a town flooded with toxic sludge are an all too stark reminder of the potential damage looming over communities in the proximity of industrial plants that produce harmful waste products on a daily basis. While containment seems the most practical solution, events like those which occurred today in Hungary serve as a reminder that pollutants are always harmful to humans and the environment -- often as a trickle, but sometimes as a flood.

The cause of the incident remains unknown.

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