Hungarian factory sorry for those killed by sludge
Sunday, October 10, 2021 6:50 PM

Related Stories

(Source: Associated Press/AP Online)By PABLO GORONDI

KOLONTAR, Hungary - The owners of the metals plant whose reservoir burst, flooding several towns in western Hungary with caustic red sludge, expressed their condolences Sunday to the families of the seven people killed, as well as to those injured - and said they were sorry for not having done so sooner.

MAL Rt., which owns the alumina plant in Ajka, also said it was willing to pay compensation "in proportion to its responsibility" for the damage caused by the deluge.

But the trouble may not be over.

With the northwest corner of the storage pool still showing a hole 50 meters (yards) wide where the mix of mud and water broke through last week, officials said the collapse of at least one of the breached walls was inevitable. That, they said, would probably unleash a new deluge of toxic matter that could ooze a half-mile (1 kilometer) to the north, wreaking further havoc.

That would flood parts of the town nearest the plant - one of those already hit by the industrial waste Oct. 4 - but stop short of the next town to the north.

Environmental State Secretary Zoltan Illes said that recently discovered cracks on the northern wall of the reservoir at the alumina plant have temporarily stopped widening because of favorable weather conditions but will continue to expand, especially at night.

Disaster agency spokesman Tibor Dobson said engineers didn't detect any new cracks overnight Saturday, and the older cracks were being repaired, but it was too soon to consider lowering the state of alert.

Protective walls were being built around the reservoir's damaged area to hold back further spills. And a 2,000-foot- (620-meter-) long dam that will be between 4 and 5 meters (yards) high was under construction to save the areas of the town of Kolontar not directly hit by last week's toxic flood.

"I would describe the situation as hopeful, but nothing has really changed," Dobson told The Associated Press. "The wall to protect Kolontar is planned to be finished by tonight, but it will likely be several days before residents may be able to move back."

Nearly all of Kolontar's 800 residents were evacuated Saturday, when Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the north wall of the massive storage pool - which is 24.7 acres (10 hectares) in size - was "very likely" to collapse because cracks that had appeared at several points.

The roughly 6,000 residents of neighboring Devecser, just north of Kolontar, were told by police Saturday to pack a single bag and get ready to leave at a moment's notice.

"This hasn't changed," Dobson said. "We are still on guard in case of any more spills."

Illes said that, since it would be impossible to transfer the 2.5 million cubic meters (568 million gallons) of red sludge still in the damaged reservoir anywhere else, he had set a 2-month deadline for closing up the huge opening.

"The hole is 50 meters (yards) wide and 23 meters high," Illes said. "The job, including pouring enough concrete to raise three 10-story buildings, will have to be done from the air. This is unprecedented."

Red sludge is a byproduct of the refining of bauxite into alumina, the basic material for manufacturing aluminum. Treated sludge is often stored in ponds where the water eventually evaporates, leaving behind a largely safe red clay. Industry experts say the sludge in Hungary appears to have been treated insufficiently, if at all, meaning it remained highly caustic.

Illes, commenting to reporters during a tour of the affected villages and the damaged reservoir, confirmed that the red sludge stored in Hungarian reservoirs had not been treated to reduce its alkalinity.

A five-member European civil protection team will start work in Hungary, helping to assess and advise on the impact of the sludge on the environment, in particular on agricultural land, surface and underground water supplies, and the flora and fauna. The team will also anticipate risks and suggest solutions about how to restore nature as well as the agricultural and urban land affected.

"The quick selection of this team ... clearly shows that European solidarity is working," Kristalina Georgieva, the EU crisis response commissioner, said Sunday.

Last week, the sludge flooded three villages in less than an hour, burning people and animals. At least seven people were killed and at least 120 were injured. Several of those who were hospitalized were in serious condition. Around 184 million gallons (700,000 cubic meters) of the caustic red sludge was released.

The sludge devastated creeks and rivers near the spill site and entered the Danube River on Thursday, moving downstream toward Croatia, Serbia and Romania. But the volume of water in the Danube appeared to be blunting the sludge's immediate impact.

Illes said that neutralizing chemicals poured into primary and secondary tributaries of the Danube, as well as efforts to remove as much red sludge as possible from the waterways, was able to prevent ecological damage to Europe's second-longest river.

In Romania, local authorities were testing the water Sunday every four hours in the village of Bazias where the Danube enters Romania from Serbia, and will continue to carry out tests all this week, said Adrian Draghici, director of Romanian water for Mehedinti county.

Romanian fishermen sailed out into the Danube and villagers fished on the banks of the river for pike, which is plentiful in the Danube. They seemed unperturbed by any potential hazards.

But local authorities warned residents about letting animals drink from the Danube and urged them to be careful about fishing.

MAL Rt., the company that owns the factory, is under investigation. Hungarian police have seized company documents, and the National Investigation Office is looking into whether on-the-job carelessness was a factor in the disaster.

State Secretary Illes said the fines accumulated so far by MAL because of the damage caused to waterways and the pollution spread by the flood totaled at least 19.2 billion forints ($97.3 million).


Associated Press writer Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania and Robert Wielaard in Brussels contributed to this report.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.



Symbol :


Market news:

  • Drunk man rescued after chasing goose into river Oct 11, 2021 03:38 PM

    • WAUSAU, Wis. - Wausau rescued and arrested a drunken man who plunged into the Wisconsin River while chasing a one-legged goose.
    • The 40-year-old Wausau man told officers he wanted to catch the bird and roast it.
    • He said he took off his shirt and shoes Thursday afternoon and jumped into the frigid water.
      • NY GOP gov hopeful Paladino says he'd hire gays Oct 11, 2021 02:16 PM

        • NEW YORK - Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said in separate appearances Monday that he stands up for the rights of everyone, including gays, but thinks young children shouldn't be exposed to homosexuality, especially at gay pride parades.
        • Mentioning his gay nephew, Paladino said the discrimination he and others face is a "very ugly experience."
        • The comments by Paladino, who has received tea party support, came a day after he told Orthodox Jewish leaders he doesn't want children "brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality" is acceptable.
          • Famed soprano Joan Sutherland dies age 83 Oct 11, 2021 02:03 PM

            • GENEVA - Joan Sutherland, a former small town secretarial school student whose mastery of tone, astonishing range and vocal control vaulted her into the top echelons of opera, has died at 83 after a four-decade career that won her praise as the successor to legend Maria Callas.
            • For Germans, she was the "Koloraturawunder."
            • Italian director Franco Zeffirelli said he knew Sutherland's voice rivaled that of Callas from the moment he heard it, and he recalled taking Callas to hear Sutherland at a Covent Garden dress rehearsal.
              • Microsoft bets big on new phone software Oct 11, 2021 01:39 PM

                • NEW YORK - Microsoft Corp. knows the cell phone world is where it's happening, and it's determined to be a part of it.
                • After years of declining sales of phones based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile software, the company is starting with a fresh slate - a completely new operating system for phones.
                • The new handsets will go up against Apple Inc.'s highly popular iPhone and the expanding number of phones running on Google Inc.'s Android operating system.
                  • 3 win economics Nobel for job market analysis Oct 11, 2021 01:39 PM

                    • STOCKHOLM - Two Americans and a British-Cypriot economist won the 2010 Nobel economics prize Monday for developing a theory that helps explain why many people can remain unemployed despite a large number of job vacancies.
                    • Federal Reserve board nominee Peter Diamond was honored along with Dale Mortensen and Christopher Pissarides with the 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.5 million) prize for their analysis of the obstacles that prevent buyers and sellers from efficiently pairing up in markets.
                    • Diamond - a former mentor to current Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke - analyzed the foundations of so-called search markets, while Mortensen and Pissarides expanded the theory and applied it to the labor market.

                      More news


    Recent Estimates

AnalystFirm NameSymbolEPS Estimate
alfred bloomingdaleXXXXX RFMD$0.14
r morriseyXXXXX RFMD$0.14
johnorganization MU$0.40
KyprosIndividual AA$0.06
gofasterstripesMr Lak CTXS$0.25