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The Voice - Student Newspaper Ocotber 20, 2010

Hungary is in a state of emergency, toxic flood threatens lives

By Kharli Mandeville
Copy Editor

After a slew of environmental disasters have caused a state of emergency in many parts of the world this past year, it seems, sadly, that we have not yet seen the last of them. On Tuesday October 5th, a gigantic reservoir containing a toxic red sludge burst its banks at a metal refinery in Ajka, Hungary (a town 100 miles west of Budapest) and gushed down the streets of the village, destroying homes, cars, and bridges.

The sludge is a waste product of aluminum production containing heavy metals, and is absolutely toxic if ingested. Hungarian Environmental Affairs State Secretary, Zoltan Illes has estimated the flood to contain about a million cubic meters (264,172,051 gallons) total in toxic waste, which has affected an estimated 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) in damage.

So far, four people have been killed (two of which were children), six are missing, and 120 have been seriously injured (many from burns.

The Hungarian national government has now declared a state of emergency.

MAL Rt, the 15 year old Hungarian aluminium production and trade company that owns the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant, initially claimed that the toxic waste which now pours out of their reservoir was "non-hazardous" in accordance with European Union standards.

They have also claimed they had no way of knowing the reservoir was in danger of bursting. The company now wishes to resume production, just as the flood has entered the Danube River, Europe's second longest river and home to an abundance of wildlife. Lakes and rivers in twelve different European countries are at risk of ecological danger as a result.

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Content revised 9/13/11