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Toxic Sludge

Hungary toxic sludge spill reaches Danube

The toxic sludge has reached one of Europe’s main waterways.

HUNGARY’S TOXIC SLUDGE spill, which has killed four people so far, has reached the southern branch of the Danube river, Reuters reports.

The toxic waste burst from the reservoir of an alumina plant at Ajka, 160 kilometres west of Budapest on Monday. The spill could cause serious damage to the ecosystems touched by the Danube – a 2,850 kilometre waterway.

The river, which originates in Germany, flows through Hungary to Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova before emptying into the Black Sea.

A spokesperson for Hungary’s disaster agency, Tibor Dobson, told Reuters that disaster crews were attempting to reduce the alkaline content of the sludge – from the current level of pH 9, to a normal, harmless level of between 6 and 8. The spill reached both the Raba river at and the Mosoni-Danube, which is a southern branch of the main Danube, this morning.

Dobson explained that fish had been killed when the spill had reached the Marcal river, which was the first affected, but pointed out that no fish had yet died in the Raba river.

Three people are still reported missing after toxic red sludge tore through local villages, killing four people and injuring 120 last Monday. The poisonous flood, which is estimated to consist of about 700,000 cubic metres, swept cars off roads and blasted bridges and houses.

The Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban visited one of the affected villages, Kolontar on Tuesday and said that a clean up was pointless as nobody would be able to live in the area again.

Speaking to reporters, Orban said:

It is difficult to find the words. Had this happened at night, everybody would be dead.